Selected Correspondence Peter
Here and Now
RESPONDENT No 80: I was recently reading Time and they had an article about meditation and the mind and such. One part of the article talked about how scientist monitored the brain activity of Buddhist monks while they meditated and they found that these people had high activity in the part of the brain where happiness is experienced like nothing they had seen before. The subject title is all in fun, but I wonder if an actualist can produce similar results. Just something I was thinking about.
PETER to No 80: I recently watched a television show along the same lines as the article you are referring to and what struck me was the inanity of people seeking an ethereal happiness by deliberately cutting themselves off from the world, a pursuit which stands in stark contrast to the utterly down-to-earth aim of an actualist – to become actually free from the human condition of malice and sorrow in the world as-it-is, with people as-they-are. A dissociated happiness is, after all, dissociative. Peter to No 80, 25.3.2005
RESPONDENT: Hi Peter, when you say ‘the world as-it-is’ what do you mean ... the actual world or the world as it is perceived by ‘me’?
PETER: I remember having a discussion with a spiritualist about this very topic soon after I abandoned spiritualism to become an actualist. He believed that the fact that everyone has a self-centred affective perception of the world meant that the physical world was a self-created illusion. We happened to be standing in front of his car at the time and I reached out and touched the glass of the headlight and asked whether or not the headlight existed in fact given that we could both see it and both touch it. He said that while we could both see it, we saw it from different perspectives, he from one angle, me from another, therefore we perceived it differently. I then realized that pursuing the matter was a waste of both his time and mine because here was a man who refused to talk sense and was determined to live, and remain living, in a world entirely of his own making.
This incident, coming as it did in my early years of investigating the human condition, highlighted the fact that in my spiritual years I had also retreated from the world as-it-is – the world of interactions with fellow flesh and blood human, of tangible palpable things and actually occurring events – into an utterly self-centred world – a world of affective interactions like-feeling souls, of ethereal non-substantial things and supposedly illusionary non-consequential events. It was then that I realized that I had in fact wasted a good many years of my life trying to be anywhere but here and anywhen but now.
But then again, it was hardly a waste of time because I know by experience the seduction of dissociation and lure of dissociative states.
RESPONDENT: Same question goes for ‘people as-they-are’.
PETER: One of the things that never sat well with me in my spiritual years was the sense of superiority that believing in a spiritual teaching or belonging to a spiritual group inevitable engenders. Of course when you are busy being a fervent believer or a loyal group member it is difficult to clearly see that, by holding such beliefs, you are separating yourself from most of your fellow human beings and are cunningly laying the blame for the ills of humankind on those of your fellow human beings who don’t believe what you believe, thereby actively contributing to the divergence and acrimony that typifies the human condition. When I dropped my spiritual beliefs I then discovered a whole lot of secular beliefs that caused me to feel separate from or superior to my fellow human beings.
The other aspect of setting your sights on being happy and harmless with people as-they-are is that one is compelled to stop the habitual and futile exercise of endlessly trying to change other people, or waiting and hoping that other people change, and focus one’s attention exclusively on changing the only person that one can change, and indeed needs to change – me.
RESPONDENT: No 80 questioned or thought whether or not the part of the brain with monitored high activity involved in producing happiness for the Buddhist monk while meditating is also involved in producing (a-caused) happiness for an actualist asking ‘Haietmoba?’ while apperception is operating. From your answer I can’t see any clear or implied ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’.
PETER: From what I saw on the television program, I have no doubt that the Buddhist monk felt happy when he meditated – I didn’t need to see an image of increase in neural activity in one part of his brain to tell me this. I have experienced the very same thing whilst meditating – often I would feel blissful feelings and I presume these feelings resulted in increased neural activity in parts of this brain as well. From what I understand, any feeling that a feeling being has results in increased neural activity in some part or other of the brain, but it is not a subject that interests me at all, quite frankly.
What did however interest me about the program was the fact that here was a fellow human being who felt happy because he was practicing a technique that involved cutting himself off from the world-as-it-is with people-as-they are. It reminded me yet again that the spiritual world and spiritual pursuits are 180 degrees opposite to the actual world and the intent of an actualist.
And just to make it perfectly clear, it is obvious that some people are happy living in the spiritual world pursuing spiritual pursuits, however when I started being interested in being here, my focus of attentiveness, together with my intent, radically changed.
PETER: I’ve been doing some thinking about your post and what you said about your change in focus lately. I’ll just repost the relevant piece as a reminder of what you said –
RESPONDENT: I do realize that the process of actualism is more than a ‘stop and smell the roses philosophy.’ Another way of putting my change in focus might be (as I’ve been thinking about it lately) living from ‘outside in’ – instead of living from ‘inside out’. Now these are just words – but what I mean by it is that I find myself often trying to analyze my every thought, feeling and figure out where the motivation is coming from – which tends to be an analytic/ emotional process in itself which doesn’t work.
I am certainly not trying to ignore the ‘inner’ processes, feeling, thoughts, etc. that are occurring – simply taking sensation as the starting point for attention. Feelings and thoughts are not ignored, but are second in priority. Now this is only a strategy – certainly not a recommendation for anyone else. It is something I’m attempting to see whether it brings long term results. Whether I will eventually negate the strategy that anything at all has ‘priority’ in attention – I don’t know – but I also won’t know until I try it. I think ‘where’ this strategy got started is noticing the more ‘cerebral’ one is about all this – the less one is experiencing what is actually present now.
PETER: The more I thought about what you said, the more I could relate to it. It’s like what I have heard Richard describe as if ‘bringing yourself to the very outer layer of your eyeballs’ and I liked the description so much I have also used it myself. I can also remember describing this shift of focus or of attentiveness as ‘like stopping hiding behind the curtains and bringing yourself to the very front of the stage’. And no doubt other people will have other ways of describing this process of becoming less ‘self’-obsessed and more interested in, and aware of, what is happening ‘outside’, as you describe it.
I have just found this piece from my journal that is relevant –
I found it interesting that I had to dig around in my memory to fully relate to what you were saying and on reflection I can see that this is not something I have to consciously make the effort to do now – I have become so accustomed to it that it has become second-nature now. But I do remember that it took constant stubborn effort at the time and I would find myself constantly falling back into not being here for long periods of time. This is not some easy thing we are talking of doing here – it is radically switching one’s focus 180 degrees from normal – ‘inside’, exclusive and ‘self’-centred – to not-normal –‘outside’, inclusive and unconditional.
I went through a brief period of berating myself for falling back ‘inside’ until I realized that this was completely natural – the result of how ‘I’ have been programmed to think, feel and operate. I also came to realize that these periods of going back to normal – feeling bored, lacklustre, ‘out of it’, annoyed, melancholic, sad, fearful, and so on, were rich fields, tangible examples of my psyche in operation, ready and ripe for immediate investigation and exploration.
Whenever I became aware that I had ‘not been here’ for a while, I immediately wanted to know why, what caused me to revert to normal? Then I would deliberately make an investigation of how my psyche had operated in that time – and the investigation was quite fresh because I could remember the event that triggered the feeling or emotion, I could often still feel the effects of the emotion, I could remember it taking over as it were. I have describe these investigations as periods of ‘self’-obsession – a deliberate and scientific obsession identical to that which a scientist, investigator or explorer has when he or she really wants to get to the bottom of something, once and for all.
Sometimes these investigations would go very intensely for days, other times they would stew on the ‘back burner’ for months, sometimes the answer came easily, other times deep-sea diving was necessary, plunging into very dark, forbidding and forbidden places in my psyche. Then when the source was uncovered, the matter resolved, the answer found and the programming eliminated, it was back to feeling good, feeling really good or even feeling excellent. Whilst these explorations seem daunting at first, soon they take on a thrilling fascination and then even the explorations, no matter how daunting, become the very stuff of life itself. Then you find you’re really cooking – as if your life really has meaning for the first time.
I think that about covers the ground of what I wanted to say. No doubt I have said all this before anyway, but I always enjoy talking afresh about this stuff, because we are pioneering this business of actualism and any tips or hints we can pass on to each other makes the job easier. I call it ‘trampling the long grass on the path’ – you have to trample your own grass for yourself but in doing so it inevitably makes the path easier for others to follow.
The useful analogy of abandoning religious/spiritual belief is that of taking off your rose-coloured glasses. By simultaneously becoming more happy and harmless you also are literally taking off your grey-coloured glasses thus avoiding the trap of reverting to seeing the world as a grim and meaningless place. Then glimpses of the inexplicable physical magic of this world we humans actually live in increasingly occur and the path to freedom becomes indeed wondrous.
Just a little anecdote about an event that happened the other day that may be useful as a simple down-to-earth description of actualism.
I was talking with someone about the delights of being alive and the everyday abundance of simple pleasures. She said but that’s because I live in such a beautiful location. When she told me where she lived it sounded equally paradisiacal and I said surely you are happy where you are. She said ‘yes’ she was happy ‘but ...’. We chatted on a bit about her ‘but’ and finally she admitted it was not a big ‘but’ and that ‘yes’ she was happy. A minute later in our conversation about how good life was she again said ‘yes, but ...’. After this had gone on for a few more times the conversation ended because she didn’t like me dismissing her ‘buts’ so flippantly.
It struck me that actualism is about getting rid of the ‘but’ in ‘I am happy, but ...’. When one asks oneself ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ and the answer is ‘I am happy, but ...’, it is the ‘but’ that needs investigating and eliminating. You then just tick them off the list until there are no ‘buts’ left. You can include ‘if’ and ‘when’ along with ‘but’ – anything that stands in the road of you being harmless and happy deserves your full and immediate attention.
This immediate attentiveness can be a bit disconcerting at first when it happens because you can experience yourself becoming sad the moment you listen to a particular piece of music or in the whilst in middle of talking to someone. You can also become aware of the very moment when you begin to get frustrated or annoyed and this can be a bit disturbing if you are in the middle of a sentence or whatever. Often it is impossible to make sense of what is happening on the spot but by your very attentiveness you can nip it in the bud straight away and instantly get back to feeling good. If need be, you can mull the event over later at your leisure so as to root around in order to discover exactly how you have been conditioned and programmed to function. Once you get the knack of this instantaneous awareness, it is great fun.
You know all this anyway, but sometimes some little incident occurs that I think is worth reporting and throwing in the ring because it shines a little more light on the down-to-earth process of actualism. And just a note that this incident has nothing to do with this woman personally – ‘yes, but ...’ is common to the human condition.
I was going to leave it at that so as not to get too long winded but yet another meeting comes to mind that twigged me recently ... so I might as well abandon my attempts at brevity, yet again.
I was having a casual discussion with a spiritual couple, which is a rarity these days, and they were talking about their money difficulties. They had recently received a substantial sum in inheritance and since then money had become their major worry in life. I said that I had determined very early on in life by observing wealthy people, as well as by personal experience, that being wealthy didn’t make people happy – au contraire. I went on to explain that when I realized that money was needed only to purchase the essentials for living, I then used whatever was left over to buy time to devote to finding out the meaning of life. She then asked me if I had found it and, looking for a quick one-liner, I said ‘being here’ and I slapped my thigh loudly so as to emphasise the physical here.
Her partner, whom I knew to be a Buddhist, nodded wisely in agreement as if to say ‘enough said, we are in agreement, brother’ and then immediately went on to tell me about his worries with money, his complaints about this and that and his bitches about particular people and ‘society’ in general. What was startlingly clear was that he was complaining and bitching about being here.
I didn’t pursue the matter because words are wasted on a committed Buddhist whose being here involves sitting in meditation, shutting out both the real world and the sensory world and going ‘there’ – somewhere else other than the world as-it-is with people as-they-are. It is impossible to talk sense to someone who insists that the meaning of life on earth is to be found by going somewhere else, as in cutting oneself off from the sensory world and retreating into one’s inner psychic world. He didn’t even have any ‘buts’ about being happy because for him it was clear cut that happiness and fulfilment could only be had by going ‘there’ – to whatever imaginary world he went to when he was going inside while sitting alone in the lotus position.
I might leave it at that for tonight, No 3 and send this off as a first part. Only a few years ago I was full-on into building and would like nothing better than getting in to laying a timber floor or cladding a wall – doing it as well as I could. Now I seem to have the same thing with two fingers on the keyboard and there is nothing finer than talking about, and bringing about, peace on earth.
Sometimes when I sit back and reflect upon what is actually happening with the setting up of The Actual Freedom Trust website and with the discussions on this mailing list, the sheer enormity of it is beyond comprehension. It is common to talk of human development going through certain stages such as the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution and currently we are in what has been called, amongst other things, the information revolution. To think that the next revolution will see an end to animosity, duplicity, resentment, unhappiness and despair and herald an ongoing era of sensitivity, sincerity, cooperation and joie de vive – in short peace on earth...
PETER to Alan: After our conversation the other day, I have been musing a bit about the word freedom and what it means to most people.
Exemption or release from slavery or imprisonment; personal liberty. 2 The quality of being free from the control of fate or necessity; the power of self-determination attributed to the will. 3 The quality of being free or noble; nobility, generosity, liberality. 4 The state of being able to act without hindrance or restraint; liberty of action; the right of, to do.. 5 Exemption from a specific burden, charge, or service; an immunity. 6 Exemption from arbitrary, despotic, or autocratic control; independence; civil liberty. 7 Readiness or willingness to act. 8 The right of participating in the privileges attached to citizenship of a town or city (often given as an honour to distinguished people), or to membership of a company or trade. Also, the document or diploma conferring such freedom. b Foll. by of: unrestricted access to or use of. c The liberty or right to practise a trade; the fee paid for this. 9 Foll. by from. The state of not being affected by (a defect, disadvantage, etc.); exemption. 10 Orig., the overstepping of due customary bounds in speech or behaviour, undue familiarity. Now also, frankness, openness, familiarity; outspokenness. 11 Facility or ease in action or activity; absence of encumbrance. 12 Boldness or vigour of conception or execution. Oxford Dictionary
The dictionary provides a reasonably straightforward definition and for an actualist the pertinent section is freedom ‘from’, as in –
Thus a freedom from the human condition is ‘The state of not being affected by (a defect, disavantage, etc.), exemption’ , from the human condition. Given that the salient attributes of the human condition are malice and sorrow, a more pragmatic definition is an actual freedom from malice and sorrow.
Much confusion arises for the seeker of freedom, peace and happiness for the word freedom traditionally means something quite different. In spiritual terms, freedom means an escape from, or release from, something undesirable – life as-it-is, in the world as-it-is, right here and right now – and the discovery of, or realization of, a more desirable somewhere else – being ‘present’ in the spiritual world, anyplace but here and anytime but now. I am having a correspondence with an awakened spiritual teacher at the moment that well illustrates this difference –
There seems to be a very deep-set misunderstanding that arises even from the running of the question ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ for the traditional approach would be – am ‘I’ feeling safe and comfortable ‘inside’ this body despite what is happening in the rock-solid world ‘out there’? This approach to the question merely perpetuates the self as an entity that is separate from the actual world, it does nothing to actively demolish and break down the barriers that prevents one as a mortal flesh and blood body being fully immersed in and engaged in the business of doing what is happening, right here and now in the physical, rock-solid actual world. This actual freedom is 180 degrees opposite to the spiritual freedom which is the escape from being here, right now in this the only moment one can experience being alive.
An exchange I recently had with another correspondent illustrates a further aspect of spiritual belief about the actual physical world where we flesh and blood humans actually live –
Again this exchange illustrates that actualism lies 180 degrees in the opposite direction to spiritualism. I don’t seek an escape from being here, now in the actual world – I seek to break free from all that prevents me from being here. In the case above, to do this means breaking free of the spiritual belief that material comfort is the cause of our misery – a deeply cynical and perverse view of life on earth that merely perpetuates human suffering.
We were chatting the other day about the marked difference between being here, doing what is happening and the feeling of not being here that can cause a frustration with life as-it-is. The frustration with life as-it-is, right here and now, most often causes a passionate desire to be somewhere else which serves only to prevent one from being here. For an actualist, any period of time spent not being here is clearly a waste of time. Any time spent being bored, angry, pissed off, feeling sad, lack luster, annoyed, etc. is time wasted time lost from fully living this the only moment one can experience being alive. All of these ‘time-offs’ have to be explored and investigated and understood so as to prevent the same old ‘time-outs’ occurring in the future. It takes a bit of practice and a lot of effort and attention as to ‘how’ am I experiencing this moment of being alive, but pretty soon one gets the hang of it.
Soon one finds that a switch has been made from being resentful at having to be here to resenting and wanting to eliminate whatever it is that prevents one from being here.
Being a bit lazy, I’ll post another bit from a recent correspondence that illustrates this point –
There is a world of difference from the spiritual freedom of feeling that one is here, and actually being here. It does take a bloody-mindedness to continually break from the habit of lazing back into commonly held beliefs and resentments about the impossibility of life being easy in this actual world. The only way to do this is to actively investigate and understand all of the beliefs, morals, ethics, psittacisms, feelings and passions that actively conspire to prevent one’s freedom. Of course, given that these dearly-held attributes are all that ‘I’ am made of, this process is actually a process of ‘self’-immolation which is why it lacks popular appeal and is stubbornly refuted and objected to by spiritual escapists.
Just a post-script to add some clarity about being here as it applies during the process to becoming actually free from the human condition. At the beginning of the process the difference between the pure consciousness experience and normal life is so extreme that the PCE clearly is experienced as being another world. Given that ‘who one is’ is a fully developed psychological and psychic entity living in a psychological and psychic construct of real-world and spiritual world beliefs, the self-less experience of the actual world has to appear other-worldly when one returns to normal. The marked similarity between the actual world and the real world is the physicality of both, whereas the vast difference between the actual world and the spiritual world is the physicality of the actual world and the ethereality of the spiritual world.
This difference gives one the clue to where purity and perfection really lie – in the self-less state, and not in the self-realized state. With this knowledge as one’s touchstone one then sets about the business of actively demolishing one’s self, and this process, if undertaken with sincere intent, means that each time one experiences a PCE the marked and startling difference between the experience and normal is reduced in proportion to the work done in the mean time. This can initially be quite disconcerting for what one sets out to do was to go ‘there’ – to the world experienced in the PCE whereas what one in fact is experiencing is the diminishing of one’s self to the point where one is coming here to the actual world and to this actual moment. It’s cute stuff and absolutely fascinating to experience. I experienced it as a half-way point – a sort of turning around 180 degrees from wanting to escape from here to there to wanting to be here. This is a literal tearing away from humanity, from both grim reality and escapist Reality. Then, as I said to No 8 –
PETER: Hi Here-Now,
RESPONDENT: There are two worlds. One is on the outside, the other is on the inside.
They are two only for the ignorant, they are two only because you have not yet seen the unity,
because the ego is standing between the two like a dividing line.
Once the ego evaporates, disappears, there is only one world.
Then it is neither subjective nor objective, neither outer nor inner,
but to begin with we have to accept the state in which we are; hence I say there are two worlds.
I mean for you there are two worlds – the outside world and the inside world.
To enter into ultimate truth first one has to explore the inner.
And we all explore the outer we begin with the wrong step. Then everything else goes wrong.
If the first step is wrong then everything else is going to be wrong.
You have to find your inner source of light first.
Explore it – and it is one of the most ecstatic adventures, in fact, the most ecstatic adventure.
No other adventure can be compared with it, everything falls short. Even going to the moon or to Mars falls short.
It is nothing compared to the journey that Jesus made or Buddha made. They are real adventurers.’
PETER: I disagree, so thought I would butt in on your poetry and give you another definition of here-now for your consideration. It’s a bit radical admittedly but it could be worth considering for someone who is vitally interested in here-now and how to get to being here permanently. The first bit is the dictionary definition –
here – In this place or position. In this world; in this life; on earth.
PETER: Just a little comment on what Mr. Watts has said,
RESPONDENT: In a certain sense
Zen is feeling life
instead of feeling something about life.Alan Watts
PETER: It is another of those poems that clearly point to the spiritual path as being a feeling path to an ‘inner world’. One becomes a ‘watcher’, ‘feeling’ one’s way in the world and as such is cut off from the direct sensate experience of the actual world that is ever-present – under our very noses.
To ‘feel’ life is not the same as fully living life, exactly as ‘thinking’ about life is not the same as fully living life.
To be actually here is to be here in this moment of time, which is the only moment one can experience anyway.
To be actually here is to be in this place which is no-where in particular in the infinitude of the physical universe.
Coming from no-where and having no-where to go, we find ourselves here in this moment in time, in this place in space.
PETER: Just a note –
No, the Ancient Wisdom of the East clearly points to a belief in God and an after-life, in other words, it is simply ‘Old Time Religion’. This is a fact, not the twisted version that I conveniently believed on the spiritual path. I took it at face value that the spiritual path was about a personal peace for me and peace on earth.
In fact, it was an attempt by ‘me’ to turn away from the ‘real’ world and aim to become an Enlightened God-man. What I talk of has not one skerrick of God or immortality in it.
RESPONDENT: As far as an after-life goes, He repeatedly stressed to be here and know. There may be an after-life but to believe in it is not the issue.
PETER: The belief in an after-life is exactly what prevents human beings from being here on the planet, now at this moment, as a flesh and blood only human being. Each human has a soul, or psychic entity that ‘feels’ separate and alien, and wants to desperately believe in an after-life. This ‘me’, usually evidenced as fear, is aware that the flesh and blood body will inevitably die and therefore ‘my’ only chance of surviving is to believe in an afterlife or seek Divinity and Immortality. It is ‘me’ – this feeling self – that prevents me, this flesh and blood body being here, now. Osho was never really here – he ‘only visited the planet’. Just looking at him, or talking to him, it was obvious that he was somewhere other than here in the physical, actual world. After all, that is the whole point of becoming Enlightened – to transcend ‘the body’ and the physical world.
RESPONDENT: There’s no doubt he stressed the importance to be here. You won’t believe it, but he is still here.
PETER: You are looking for a bet each way again. So when he was here as a flesh and blood body you say he was here and now that he is dead, he is still here? It does beg the question who is ‘here’ in both these cases. Was it not his spirit, Buddha nature, soul, essence, original face? Could it be that his feeling self became His feeling ‘Self’ (God), and that was the presence you felt when he was alive and that you feel now that he is dead. Your connection is a feeling connection to God exactly as a Christian has to Jesus and as a Jew has to Jehovah. Once I saw that I was trapped in a Religion it became evident that it was only loyalty, gratitude and pride that I had to look at in order to get out. And the essential spur on was the knowledge that there was something better on offer.
RESPONDENT: And by the way, Freedom is just freedom. When you qualify it as ‘actual’ you are comparing it with something else which according to you is not ‘actual’. So actual freedom is not freedom at all, just another concept. depending for its definition on another concept.
PETER: No, actual means actual. Actual Freedom is a freedom from the Human Condition of malice and sorrow. One of the first steps is to become free of the belief in God and an after-life. To become free of the belief in good spirits and bad spirits. To break free the slavery of the Master-disciple business and being beholden to any God, Guru. To free one’s self from the insidious platitudes of Eastern spiritual Wisdom with its seductive poetical promises of Bliss and Nirvana.
This is an actual freedom that is so liberating it is often hard to restrain from jigging when walking to the computer to write about it. Beholden to no-one and nothing. Free to be happy and harmless – at last.
RESPONDENT: Clever of you to give birth to your body...
PETER: Ah, none of my doing, for I started life as the amazing product of a sperm meeting an egg – how amazing that the multiplication of those cells 50 years ago is now typing these words and contemplating the fact at the same time. And people believe in God – what a waste compared to being here, as this flesh and blood body, typing with the smell of baked potatoes wafting through the room ...
RESPONDENT: A quick note on an experience I had the other night... I was experiencing some anxiousness about the ‘meaning of life’ and noticed that much of my thoughts revolve around searching for an enduring value or figuring out whether my life has had enough enjoyment – wondering how I would evaluate my life if I were lying on my death bed... when I realized how silly the whole thing was ... why would I spend my final moments reminiscing about the past – which is not even present anyway?
PETER: I am always somewhat surprised that so few people seem to stop to spend the time to do a bit of stocktaking and re-evaluating as to what they have done and where they are headed. Many of my generation had both the opportunity and time to think about the ‘meaning of life’ and many indeed did begin searching for something better than grim reality and something less shonky and self-indulgent than Olde Time Religion.
Unfortunately, most followed fashion and found Eastern religion and that sucked the very life out of them. By becoming believers in Truth, they have become as morally-superior and as intellectually-disingenuous as the countless generations before them who surrendered their will to a mythical God in exchange for a front row seat in an imaginary afterlife. And I can only say this because I too went down that path for a good many years.
And the only reason I stopped being a follower and a believer was that I took the time to do some stocktaking and re-evaluating of my life – and I didn’t like what I saw, so I determined to change. Better to make such evaluations now – even if it involves contemplating lying on your deathbed – and make the necessary changes now rather than end up dying in sad regret of never having fully lived.
RESPONDENT: It was strange to recognize that I often spend my time looking for some narrative that ties ‘my’ life together into some meaningful narrative, and I realized that this sort of enterprise is one of the hopeless things that ‘I’ do, since the ‘meaning’ of my life depends upon some interpretation of the events of my life.
PETER: Who else but you is going to interpret the events of your life and who else but you is going to determine what meaning it should have? There is no one better qualified, or more vitally interested, than you to decide what to do with your life.
I know, for me, it was glaringly obvious that if I wanted to become free of the human condition in toto, then the doing of it was up to ‘me’.
RESPONDENT: Then and there I realized experientially, not just intellectually, that this is my only moment of being alive – what a waste to cling to the past or future! Or to try and compose meaningful narratives out of the past and future – any such emotional story is always ‘up for grabs’ and must be defended by the identity. Anyway, it dawned on me that the only reliable meaning one can find is ‘now’ – since that’s all that’s actually here, now. :o)
PETER: Given that you have asked for input on your reflections, I will offer some suggestions based upon my experience as an actualist. They are only suggestions but you might well find them useful.
Whenever I had an experiential realization that this is the only moment I can experience being alive I deliberately made the effort to focus my attention on sensate experiencing, be it hearing the full range of sounds about, smelling the smells of various things, seeing with either soft-focused or investigative eyes, feeling with the whole of one’s skin or the touch of the finger and taking the time to savour the variety and intensity of taste. By doing so I started to become more aware of and more familiar with the sensual pleasures of the physical world. Cultivating this awareness and familiarity leads to a sensual delight in being here which in turn can sometimes lead to a delicious slipping into a PCE of the actual world.
As well as focussing my attention on sensate experiencing of the physical world, I would often deliberately contemplate on the nature of the physical world. This meant that in looking at the sky, I started to understand that we human animals ‘swim’ at the bottom of the earth’s atmosphere rather as fish swim in the sea. The air we breathe in and out and move around in ebbs and flows in the form of breezes and winds, its temperature varies seasonally, daily and often momentarily, it varies in moisture content between dry and decidedly wet and visually it offers a constantly changing scene varying from starless or star-filled nights, endless varieties of sunrises and sunsets, and a constantly changing scene of cloudless or cloud-filled days. Added to all this is the precipitation cycle that draws water from the land and oceans and deposits it around the planet in the form of rain, constantly nourishing the vegetate life and thereby sustaining the animate life on the planet.
This very same combination of sensate experience and reflective contemplation can be applied to all of the physical world we live in, without discrimination. Thus the materials, objects, tools and machines that human beings fashion out of the earth equally become things of fascination – the very matter of the earth made even more wondrous by the application of ingenuity. Over time these experiences of sensual delight in being here can develop into a marvelling at being here doing this business of being alive and then things really get cooking because you then start to become obsessive about wanting to live this experience as an on-going actuality, 24/7.
What can also be gleaned from such moments – provided one is observant and doesn’t latch onto the experience and claim it for one’s own self-aggrandizement – is that such moments of sensual experiencing and pure contemplation only occur when ‘I’ am absent. You can observe that such moments weren’t occurring when I was feeling bored or lacklustre a while ago, in fact it couldn’t have occurred then because the predominant experience I was having then was feeling bored or lacklustre.
In such moments you can realize that only ‘I’ stand in the way of the perfection and purity of the actual world becoming apparent. Then it is clearly seen that ‘me’ is the problem, not ‘me’ choosing to ‘cling to the past or future!’ or attempting to ‘try and compose meaningful narratives out of the past and future’ . In such moments you can realize that the traditional approach of practicing detachment (as in not-clinging) and practicing denial (as in no past and no future) can only lead to disassociative states of being – the antithesis of the experience of being fully alive in this very moment of time, in this very place in physical space.
What actualism offers is a way of progressively dismantling ‘me’, the spoiler who stands in the way of the pure consciousness experiencing of being fully alive in the actual world. Actualism is not about dissociating from, or associating with, the grim reality of normal human experiencing. What is on offer is a third alternative – eliminating ‘who’ you think and feel you are and discovering what you are – but for this to happen work needs to be done to get from A to B.
As you have probably gathered, the main point of my input regarding your reflections is to encourage you to more and more make your contemplations as down-to-earth as possible. This way you not only avoid the trap of spirituality but you will find yourself more and more coming to your senses, both literally and figuratively.
RESPONDENT: Right – it’s not ‘me’ choosing to ‘cling to the past or future’ that is the problem, but ‘me.’ Clinging to the past and future is a symptom, not the cause. I definitely don’t want to go the detachment route – and it’s not so much that there is no past or future – just that the past and future aren’t actual. Now is all that is actual.
PETER: And not only is this moment in time the only moment you can experience as an actuality, but this place in physical space is the only place you can experience as an actuality. Those who deliberately practice not-clinging to time (this moment) and space (this physical place) end up wafting around with their head in the clouds, being some-place-else-but-here – the antithesis of fully being here in this moment of time, in this place in physical space.
So, if I may suggest, when you contemplate on the fact that this moment in time the only moment you can experience as an actuality, don’t neglect the fact that this place in physical space is the only place you can experience as an actuality – then you will really start to come down to earth for the first time in your life.
Because all we have is what we have now, and in reality. And who we are is who we are good bad and indifferent, crazy or sane. I am and have been all these things. and the idea that I might be something else more or less in the future is not real to me except to say sure okay fine, but what I am NOW is terrific. I have life and awareness and it’s an amazing ride. Life. Life itself.
Given the fact that we are only able to experience this moment of being alive the idea of life as a continuity is a bit of a furfy. Sure I can remember past events, people or places (with a bit of an effort in some cases) but I have no emotional memory of them. They simply happened in the past, there was no ‘me’ there as an experiencer and as such there is no emotional memory in terms of good, bad, right, wrong. As for the future I make sure I have a list of the things I need to do, but beyond that I have got no idea what will happen. Sure, today I will probably type a few e-mails, have lunch down-town, have a romp with Vineeto, we are going out to a birthday party tonight, but still I have no idea what will happen, who I will meet, what I will say, what they will say. To only experience this moment of being alive is so much more extraordinary than having a ‘life’ (as a continuity). It is, at last, to live freely and fully in the actual world of people, events and things. And it is all happening right now, this very moment.
However, as I remember it, in the early days I would often get sucked back into my normal ways of doing things, absorbed with the lives of others, instinctually reverting to the blame-others game. It takes considerable effort and ongoing attentiveness to break old in-grained habits, to stop repressing feelings, to stop shoving things under the carpet. But in the end the successes I had encouraged me to dare to investigate all of the beliefs and passions that stood in the way of my feeling felicitous – no matter how disconcerting the process … and no matter what changes would result from the process.
Whew! You are right about the insidious constant reversions. I am continually catching myself slipping into the same old movies... the good news is that I do catch them much quicker than I used to, giving me the opportunity to dig deep into the origin.
This does have the tendency to de-fuse them. I have been more careful lately to make sure that I am actually digging into the feelings rather than simply suppressing them. That don’t work!
Side note – at times I have had feelings of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of this task... 24/7 determination could be exhausting. It dawned on me that though this is a full-time job, it does start anew every moment. If I fail to bring full determination, it’s ok because I just start over again (and again and again...). For some bizarre reason, this seems to relieve me of the ‘burden’. I think this is similar to the 12 step mantra.
It’s good to remember that of the hundreds who have been offered the chance of testing a method to become happy and harmless thus far only the proverbial handful have taken up the challenge. I was reminded the other day of an acquaintance who once asked me what actualism was about. When I told her it was about eliminating malice and sorrow from your life, she thought about it for a bit and then said ‘But I like feeling sad, it’s a nice feeling and I like being angry – I have needed to fight in my life to get to where I am.’ So, not only is the task you have set yourself a big one – it is, at this stage in human history, a very rare one.
As for starting ‘anew every moment’, feeling happy and being harmless is not like a bank account – in fact, observation will reveal that this is the only moment you can feel happy and be harmless. If you miss out, then there is something to check out, to investigate. Then, as quick as you can, get back to cranking up the felicitous feelings.
You are not doing anything ‘wrong’ by missing out. Noticing that you are ‘missing out’ and then discovering why you are ‘missing out’ – be it that you were feeling detached, lacklustre, sad, anxious, annoyed, aggrieved or whatever – is the real work inherent in being an actualist.
So, I find myself sitting on a cusp – irrevocably locked into the world as-it-is, with people as-they-are, and perpetually locked into this moment with no ‘other place’ to escape to and no ‘other time’ to escape to. Experiencing that the only impediment to perfection and purity is ‘me’ – ‘who’ I think and feel I am – whatever is selfishly going on in my head and heart and that is often very weird, very strange. But, then again, this is a very weird thing to do – to re-wire one’s brain to the point of self-extinction. Something has to give in this tension and it is bound to be ‘me’. It seems to me that one can make sense of the Human Condition such that one can be virtually free of it but ‘making sense’ then has to be abandoned for direct sensate experiencing.
RESPONDENT: When I am dead there will be no time whatsoever because there will be no consciousness of ‘not being here’.
PETER: When you are dead, your sense of ‘being here’ will cease, as a direct result of you not being here – as in dead, finished, deceased, passed away, expired, extinct, stuffed, finito, kaput, no more alive. But time will go on, exactly as it does when your consciousness of ‘being here’ ceases during deep sleep every night. Given this discussion seems to be focussing on what happens before and after No 7, a bit on time from the Glossary might help focus on No 7, as you are now, here on earth, right now.
– A finite extent of continued existence; eg. the interval between two events, or the period during which an action or state continues; a period referred to in some way. Time when: a point in time; a space of time treated without ref. to duration.
Peter: Time can be conveniently be regarded in the three tenses: past, future and present.
Past time is recalled by us as memories or thoughts and as such is both a cognitive re-call and an emotional re-call. Not only was our perception of the place, people or event coloured at the time but our recall is coloured and somewhat shaky. Current investigations suggest that in fact we only recall the last time we recalled something rather than re-calling the original memory.
There is good scientific evidence that memories of traumatic or fearful events are not only stored as conscious memories in the neo-cortex, but are also stored in the amygdala as ‘unconscious’ or non-cognitive memories. These memories stored in the amygdala or primitive brain give substance to ‘me’ and give substance to ‘my’ life of suffering and ‘my’ pains and hurts from the past. To dip into this treasure trove of suffering can be a bittersweet occupation.
Future time is conceived by us as imagination and as such is emotionally coloured. Given our over-riding instinct of fear, most of the future we see in fear ridden terms. This fear of the future is given credence by the bountiful store of emotional memories of past hurts and fears located in the amygdala. Hence the general future scenarios of gloom and doom, apocalypse and annihilation. To balance this we invent a ‘good’ – and always in the future – scenario of salvation, redemption and a blissfully happy afterlife, which we pray, trust and hope will eventuate.
Present time is the closest to now , this very moment and is generally regarded as now. The problem for the human perception of now is that there are so many things going on in the brain and the body that the clear and direct sensate experience of experiencing this moment of being alive is impossible. The emotional affective faculties are on constant overload, with emotional memories of the past and imaginations of the future constantly crowding in. Added to that is the automatic neuro-biological operation of the instincts of fear, aggression, nurture and desire experienced as overwhelming passions due to the pumping of potent chemicals into the body and brain. One is usually ‘sensing’ or ‘feeling out’ this moment fearfully and aggressively such that the actual direct sensate experience of this moment of being alive is impossible.
But all is not lost. With sincere intent and diligent application one can eliminate this constant neurosis and associated feelings, passions and emotions such that one becomes both happy and harmless. Thus freed of malice and sorrow it is then possible to directly, intimately and fully experience this moment in time. And the trick to getting here, now at this moment in time and this place in space is enjoy and appreciate this moment of being alive. To facilitate this you ask yourself, as an ongoing non-verbal attitude, ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ This moment in time is, after all, the only moment one can experience anyway, and if you are not happy now you are missing yet another moment ... and another … and another … The Actual Freedom Trust Library
What I found when I came across actualism, was that I was more interested in what happened before I was here and what was going to happen after I was gone – a fascination born of years in the spiritual world with its concept of eternal time and my eternal being.
A bit from my journal about my realizations concerning the utter futility of spiritual philosophy may be useful –
So, I do understand your difficulties on focusing your attention on No 7, here, now and not go searching for the ‘Here and Now’. It is exceedingly difficult to turn one’s brain around, so to speak. The programming is so set, so set in one direction, so used to viewing and experiencing the world in the usual duality of either normal or spiritual that anything else seems inconceivable. It took me months and months of effort, not only of reading but contemplating and investigating the facts for myself.
PETER: Self-realisation or Enlightenment is a mere delusion (an illusion fabricated out of an illusion) whereby the psychic entity ‘feels’ it is Immortal and Eternal.’
‘Actual Freedom lies 180 degrees in the opposite direction to spiritual freedom. It is actual, sensate, tangible, ever-present, delightful, pure and perfect and available to any who is daring enough to free themselves of both the psychological and psychic entities within.
RESPONDENT: Is your ‘ever-present’ anything like ‘Eternal’?
PETER: No, I am only capable of experiencing this moment of being alive as a sensate, reflective flesh and blood human being. This moment is ever present.
I, as this body, did not exist some 50 years ago before the sperm hit the egg, and when I die nothing can continue. My awareness of being alive – consciousness – will cease with this body. This is clearly indicated when I am asleep when consciousness ceases for the period of sleep. Death is the cessation of consciousness. I am mortal, not ‘Eternal’.
Peter’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.