Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Honk Honk!

Simply put, the art in navigating life is to see it as a treasure hunt, rather than an obstacle course; and the ultimate goal of this treasure hunt can only be unconditional happiness and love, or ‘the peace that transcends all understanding’, as scripture has it.

But as it was realized earlier, in order to find this treasure, the sense of being somebody special, or even somebody at all, has to disappear. Fortunately we found that the very search for this separate entity exposes its illusory and entirely thought generated quality.

But instead of this triggering an awakening, revealing our infinite and timeless nature, we find ourselves paralyzed by an apparent cognitive dissonance, a concept we explored in an earlier post. (see below) There is compelling and irrefutable evidence that a separate, autonomous do-er and decider cannot be found in the field of our experience, and yet there is a lifetime of conviction that we are individuals with at least a degree of control over our lives, and this conviction is continuously reinforced by the world around us.

This cognitive dissonance acts like a wall, throwing us back, time and again, into the dream of the mind, time, suffering, and death.

But is it really so outlandish, so seemingly impossible, to imagine the experience of a life without a center, of being the whole as well as the part, of being and knowing oneself as unlocalized consciousness? Aren’t we surrounded by a near infinite amount of sentient life that acts and interacts without any individual do-ership? Who or what decides to open a flower or a leaf? If a flock of birds flies from one tree to the next, much like a gust of wind, who is doing it, who decides? Aren’t we entirely comfortable with answers like: ‘It’s happening by itself.’ ‘Nature is doing it.’ ‘God.’?

What makes us so different? Some additional synaptic connections and brain cells we gained as we developed our prefrontal cortex?  So, now we are in charge of reality?? That seems ridiculous. Could it not be that our mind is simply a processor, a dream machine of sorts, rendering the sum of all sensory input into a story, thus generating an enhanced experience for consciousness at large?

Still too outlandish? Consider the following analogy.

If these body-minds we came to regard as ourselves were indeed a means and vehicle of consciousness, created by consciousness to experience itself in the form of its manifest expressions - does this vehicle have a driver or is it conceivable to be driverless?

What about the driverless cars we recently came to accept as a functioning reality, with the majority of us barely aware of all of the intricacies involved? Driverless cars are complex machines with sensors and even more complex processors that have been extensively programmed to meet any conceivable environmental perception with the appropriate response.

Aren’t our body-minds quite comparable? Aren’t they complex bio-machines with sense organs and complex bio-processors that have been extensively programmed or conditioned, genetically and by every single experience, every second of their lives?

Isn’t it conceivable that every utterance, gesture, and reaction, inside and out, is indeed a direct result of this infinitely intricate conditioning, a direct result of the interplay of perceptual stimuli with the programmed processor? Can we perceive ourselves as driverless vehicles that are recording the sightseeing experience we call our life with the help of an artificially created subject?

Since the driver cannot be found as we comprehensively explored before, we might as well give this analogy some playtime.

Honk Honk!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Shortcut

My last post concluded with the realization that to experience total freedom, peace, and unconditional happiness, the sense of being a separate personal entity has to disappear. While whole-hearted navigation gradually erases this distinction through alignment, there is a complementary practice, essentially a shortcut, that can greatly facilitate this process.

All spiritual practices aim at increasing the awareness of our spiritual nature. Our spiritual nature is our non-material nature, our soul or consciousness. Non-material or non-phenomenal pertains to that, which is not a thing and which is therefore formless and timeless. Our spiritual nature is our formless and timeless nature.

Most of us identify with our body. And if we believe that there is indeed a formless and timeless quality to us, we are unable to realize it, because our mind can only render what is defined by space and time. Therefore, this formless and timeless nature cannot be found with the help of the personal mind. And in order to truly realize and BE it, it appears that our sense of identity would have to disassociate from the body to dissolve in this formless nature that we cannot find...

As it happens, both of these seemingly formidable obstacles can be overcome by simply focusing our attention on the experience of identity itself: "What exactly do we refer to when we say ‘I’?"
"What does the label ‘I’ point to if we stay exclusively in the realm of our actual experience?" This form of enquiry is the core practice of Wisdom Yoga (Jnana Yoga) and the essence of Non-duality Teachings in Hinduism (Advaita Vedanta).

It is quite straightforward. As we examine what we truly experience as we follow the sense of ‘I’ inward, we naturally land on the body as the first likely candidate. There are immediate problems, however. First, we call it ‘my body’, which suggests that we are not the body itself. Secondly, if we were the body, we should be able to substitute the word ‘I’ with the words ‘this body’ in thought and speech. "‘This body’ wants to know its identity; ‘this body’ is wondering; ‘this body’ is confused, etc. etc." Clearly no fit. As we see, in most cases this does not make any sense at all. We are also aware of the body in its entirety, which requires a subject/object relationship and puts us somehow outside of it. It follows that we cannot be the body, not essentially at least.

The only elements pertaining to the sense of ‘I’ that we can actually perceive and experience are our body, our thoughts, and our emotions. Since we are not the body, we would have to find our identity in our thoughts and emotions, a field of experience we usually call the mind. The mind, however, is not an entity to begin with. It is an ever changing stream of thoughts and feelings, concepts, images, ideas, and memories. Sometimes it doesn’t even exist, as in deep sleep, or if we are immersed in an absorbing activity. To place our identity in the mind would mean that we are made of thoughts and feelings that appear and disappear and are constantly changing. Additionally, as with the body, we can be aware of all aspects of the mind, and we call it ‘my mind’. Again, it follows clearly that we cannot be the mind either.

What we are looking for is the one that is looking out from behind the eyes, the owner of the emotions, the thinker of thoughts, the do-er of actions, the one in control, the person, the ego, the psychological entity at our core. But if we look with sustained focus, frame by frame, so to speak, all we find is a construct of thoughts, concepts, and memories, together forming the idea of a separate self.

And so, quite magically, simply by looking for itself, the navigator disappears indeed.

To be continued.

Friday, December 29, 2017


Last week I retired the website for ‘The Art of Navigation’, mostly for technical reasons, and traffic has been redirected to this blog, prompting an update.

It’s been 7 years since my last entry, and I feel like sharing what happened or un-happened here as concisely as possible.

The case I was trying to make with ‘The Art of Navigation’ was that we cannot find happiness by attempting to manipulate Life, but rather by aligning with Life. In this context, Life is seen as the active side of the infinite, supreme reality that underlies all existence and experience.

Once we have embarked on this journey of aligning with Life, or as Castaneda put it, aligning our Intent with Universal Intent, it becomes increasingly clear that in ultimate and complete alignment with Life we are essentially merged with Life. With this, any sense of separateness from Life - any sense of separation in general - dissolves.

In my initial understanding, exploring and honing the Five Elements of Navigation, (Intent, Enthusiasm, Perseverance, Impeccability, and Presence) presented the best strategy to reach this Union with Life. Following the momentum that writing the book had created, I was, however, presented with a very complementary, even more direct, and near effortless way - a shortcut of sorts.

The art of navigation, my association with Carlos Castaneda, or my lifelong spiritual pursuits for that matter, were never just about living a more enchanting life, or experiencing more freedom and happiness. There was always a deep seated intuition that there is an ultimate attainment in life, that there is an actual reality underlying the concepts of Total Freedom, Self-Realization, Enlightenment, Awakening, Nirvana, and Heaven.

Freedom had always been my mantra. Total Freedom! But what had eluded me for the longest time was the fact that there can be no Total Freedom for a separate, personal, individual self. In other words, Total Freedom can never be freedom FOR myself, but only freedom FROM myself.

Obviously, complete Union with Life and the disappearance of any sense of separation from Life amounts to freedom from the idea of being a separate self.

So, it appears, that in order to reach the very goal of navigation, the navigator has to disappear.

To be continued. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

To Hell with Closure!

Since the first chapter of ‘The Art of Navigation’ is entitled ‘A Cognitive Dissonance’, I have been getting a lot of questions about this concept during a recent series of radio interviews. As a result, my fascination with this phenomenon has deepened exponentially. 

A cognitive dissonance describes the discomfort that arises when we are holding two conflicting and apparently irreconcilable ideas simultaneously. A simple example would be that we suddenly learn about the serious criminal past of a person for whom we have the utmost respect and with whom we had only positive interactions.

The linear mind immediately wants to reduce the emerging discomfort by rearranging beliefs and perceptions to arrive at certainty, usually at the cost of truth. If we resist this automatic response, however, a beautiful, unexpected and fresh spaciousness can arise that is the more pronounced, the stronger the dissonance.

Profound cognitive dissonances can lead to extended periods of internal silence. We literally don’t know what to think anymore. These episodes naturally allow our attention to merge with the undifferentiated, non-dualistic, and pre-cognitive background awareness that is the source of all existence – a (non)experience that is usually not available because our attention is distracted, mesmerized, and isolated by the unbroken stream of our thoughts.

On deeper examination it seems apparent that the mind’s obsession with certainty and closure is actually a tremendous liability for our natural evolution towards freedom and true Self-realization.

Rather than trying to make a more comprehensive case in this regard, I want to urge you to explore this for yourself and experience the defiant freshness and rapidly increasing openness of resisting the mind’s respective conditioning.

There is a very wholesome excitement that comes out of defying the mind’s dualistic obsession with good and bad, right and wrong, and one-pointed, dead ended certainty.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Imbued with Enquiry

Navigating life requires a truly open mind – a mind that feeds on questions rather than answers. We are usually not comfortable with open questions though. Our conditioning drives us towards answers, preferably quick and simple answers, which our mind then mistakes for knowledge. We might even avoid contemplating questions altogether if we have the intuition that there is no straightforward answer.

Navigating life means to engage in an open enquiry with universal intelligence. Ideally, a navigator’s entire being is imbued with the energy of enquiry. Not because he or she is in search of answers, but out of the recognition of the enchantingly open and infinite quality of questions and enquiry. Answers don’t lead to a sense of wonder. Answers don’t produce magic. Answers cannot go beyond the limitations of our thought based mind.

If we are serious about turning our life into a magical treasure hunt where the ultimate treasure is total freedom and Self-realization, focusing on answers is out of the question.

Once the enquiry is liberated from the limiting filter of answers, it can produce genuinely true results that bypass the mind - in form of silent knowledge, insights, and direct experience.

In practice we simply admit to ourselves and the universe at large that we don’t really know anything at all anyway; and out of this understanding we open ourselves up to guidance. Let the universe lead this dance - until there is no more differentiation.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


There are many ways how navigating life makes more sense than living entirely from our mind. On the most basic level it is simply more magical and exciting to allow and integrate intuition and synchronicities into our daily lives. And on the other end of the spectrum we find that navigating is the exclusive and natural way for the being to move through life once the ego is relinquished.
While we can successfully use our intuition to pursue the freedom to do what we want, the default intent of navigation is towards freedom from wanting anything at all.

On closer examination it becomes quite obvious that navigating life requires us to surrender, and complete and effortless navigation requires complete surrender.  After a lifetime of being conditioned to never give up, surrendering does neither sound appealing, nor effortless, to say the least. But due to the unfathomable force, I came to know as ‘Grace’, we can actually navigate right into surrender, instead of having to surrender in order to navigate. If this sounds like a riddle, it is a benevolent one.

Bottom line, once we engage our indigenous navigation system, we are on our way to freedom (the good kind). Just don’t open the champagne too early. Our mind is pretty skilled in causing ‘false awakenings’. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Forget about it!

During a recent interview I was asked what I thought about 2012, and if I would feel comfortable to speak during an upcoming conference on this topic. As most everybody is probably aware by now, the winter solstice of 2012 marks the end of the Mayan Calendar and is therefore regarded by many as a possible ‘event horizon’ of sorts, a point in time marking a fundamental shift in experience. Many think it could represent the end of the world as we know it, either in an apocalyptic scenario, or in form of a collective shift in consciousness towards global awakening.

My response to the interviewer was that my thoughts on 2012 were “to forget about it completely,” and that I would be happy to share this at a respective conference, even if that would turn me into the devil’s advocate.
Obviously I see no benefit in burdening myself with apocalyptic expectations. Not only would that have the potential of ruining my day, but a belief in an impending apocalypse would also feed into creating such a reality.

Intending December 21st, 2012 to be the tipping point for global enlightenment sounds like a great and noble project - on first look. However, the very nature of awakening or enlightenment does not lend itself to such an idea. Spiritual awakening simply means the profound realization that we are not an object but rather the awareness in which all objects, however subtle, are perceived. It stands for the clear seeing that our core nature is the immaterial, unfathomable, infinite, and timeless awareness that witnesses all phenomena. To link this Self realization with time or a point in time is somewhat of a travesty, turning it into an intellectual affair, handing awakening over to the mind, which is its very nemesis.

In other words, if we really would like to see this global awakening to take place, we need to unsubscribe from the idea that it could happen in time or at a point in time. We need to unsubscribe from the idea altogether that our essential Self has anything to do with time at all.

In still other words, it seems apparent to me that we have to completely forget about 2012 and any other point in time if we are truly interested in awakening, individually and collectively.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vroom Vroom!

Navigating through life is not unlike navigating through unknown terrain in a car that is equipped with a navigation system. A series of steps is required to get from A to B.

First, we have to enter the destination. We have to program and set our intent as precisely as possible. The only constraint is that the destination has to be reachable with our vehicle.

Second, we need to have gas in the tank, start the engine and apply energy to the wheels to get moving. We have to energize our intent. In life we do that by generating enthusiasm and passion that is providing the necessary momentum, driving us forward.

Third, we need to drive consistently. Every journey takes time, patience, and persistence. There may be traffic jams, detours, or even mechanical problems that slow us down. Our intent may need to be nurtured and kept alive. Perseverance is essential.

Fourth, we have to be careful, prudent, and precise in the whole endeavor. Speeding, running red lights, driving drunk, or even just neglecting the maintenance of our vehicle could seriously jeopardize our trip. Impeccability is the only real travel insurance we can obtain in life - impeccability, precision, and integrity.

Fifth, we have to constantly pay attention to our navigation screen and to the environment, so we can correlate the information to see if we are on course. Without uncompromising presence and alertness, effective navigation is impossible. If we are constantly lost in thoughts, we are bound to get lost in life.

Happy travels!