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Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Devil In The Details

Dear Ciaran

I've been sussing out some ideas after reading your work for the last few months. Some of the things I've picked up that have stuck that is.. 

We're starting with coming to know the "flavor" of reality. The taste of the real. Being able to stay with the immediacy of your own experience. To stay within the moment of "now" and not be wandering off in your head somewhere.

The human self is a display, an illusion. Our thought-processes have evolved to give the appearance of "self", of a mind behind the self. This is the common experience of most humans at present. Emotions fuel the mating display, so ramping them up (creating drama), or joining someone else's drama allows people to give a very vivid display of self. Others respond to the display and it's pretty self-reinforcing for most. A few of us break it . And some of us are born without whatever it is, or maybe it's a little defective and what the fuck is wrong with us.

This is all that is real. The immediacy of our experience that is. Why not be the best versions of ourselves? Why not short-cut the pain of the self, to cut it off at the knees as it were. To throw off the oppression of our social conditioning and become who we are. To revel in reality and become a force within it.

When it comes to all of our various emotions, you just accept and experience them. Honor them. But undercut the drama, take away their shit-storm creating powers by just recognizing them for what they really are. Your simple human feelings, whatever they may be and however intense they may be. Evolved responses to stimuli. No story.

If you can, find love. Friendship. Community. Faith in something, even if it's just in your ability or provide for the people in your life. Or faith in the idea that shit will get better. Just keep trying.

That's what I've picked up from your work lately.  Is this accurate?


Hi there,

I wanted to take some time with this one, because there's an issue here that is absolutely instrumental.

It's about subtlety.

Subtlety and nuance, the little details, the small things.  It might seem that the small things, the little subtle tweaks and tiny little nuances, that they are less relevant because they are smaller.

This is not true.  The reason it's not true is that this stuff is punching right down to a very, very deep level.  Because of this, it's like tinkering with a building's foundations.  We might not think one inch matters here, or half an inch there, but once we put a skyscraper on top of it, it matters - a lot.

So what I'm going to do is just go through what you've written here, and tweak it.  And it's really important that we don't get defensive when we read things like this, and we don't write them off as being irrelevant because they're not big.

They're not big - but then the place where we change our lives isn't the place where it's all the big ideas and the wonderful feelings.  It's in the simple, quiet places, where we see the tiny little things that have massive consequences for the way we live.

So before we go on - let's take some time to understand this, and let's not flinch it, or belittle it, or let it slide away until we've really stared it clear in the eye.  The small nuances are where this happens.  Once again in bold:

The small nuances are where this happens.

Nuance is hugely important - and in fact, I have never come across anyone with any problem in any of this kind of thing whatsoever, from any wisdom tradition or lack thereof, who's problem did not come down to a very small, subtle thing that they just didn't see.

Ok?  So consider this underlined.  The nuances matter.  So let's get some nuance.

Let's just start at the beginning - when you say:

"We're starting with coming to know the "flavor" of reality. The taste of the real"

Yes, this is true.  But even the phrase 'coming to know' is overegging the pudding

Do we use the phrase "coming to know" in normal conversation?  Do we say "I'm coming to know what this book is all about?"  Do we say "I'm coming to know what this car feels like to drive?"

Saying 'coming to know' sounds pretty mystical.  Quite shiny and noble.  Coming to know - like the truth is dawning upon you like daybreak, shafts of light striking from over a horizon, chasing away the shadows.

Even a whisper of romance in this is a whisper too much.

So not 'coming to know' the flavour of the real.  How about 'getting a sense' of it, or 'getting a feel' for it?  Those are things that mean exactly the same, that we use in conversation.  They don't show reverence, and they don't show disrespect either.

We're not downplaying it, and we're not 'up-playing' it either.  It's just simple.  Getting a sense for the flavour of experience, getting a sense of the flavour of the real.  Subtle - but important.  Small things have big consequences.

"The human self is a display, an illusion."

Yes, yes it is.

"Our thought-processes have evolved to give the appearance of "self", of a mind behind the self."

Ok - again, some very subtle tinkering to be done here, but it has a huge effect on how successful we can be with this stuff.

They're not even really thought processes.  They're the illusion of thought processes.  The illusion of thought processes that never actually happened.

Can you see the difference?  If it's too subtle, take your time with it.

On the one hand, we have the idea that our thoughts have evolved to give the appearance of a self......

Or....... on the other hand....

That our brains have evolved to give the appearance of thought.

This is one of the big connections I was able to make in One Song - it's not that thought processes are generating the illusion of mind, it's that - and pay attention here, these small subtle distinctions really matter, they matter hugely, so pay attention - it's that the brain is inventing thought processes that never actually happen.

Uh, ok Ciaran, isn't this just hair-splitting?

Yes.  But at this depth, our success or failure can depend on precision the width of half a hair, so take the time to get this.

When we ask what thought is, we're already making an assumption.  That it's an actual thing.  But it's not. There is no thought, which is to say there is no linear processing happening in the human brain.  None.

What we instead have is pattern recognition, which is backward rationalised as linear processing, to create the illusion of mind.  The illusion of mind, woven of illusions of thought.  There is no real thought - there's just the story of thought, the illusion of thought.

This distinction seems so little, but has vast consequences.  It's very common for people to try and 'stop thinking' or 'stop the thoughts' - but the fact is, they're not thoughts.  There is no thinking going on - but there's an incredibly compelling illusion of thinking being generated.

We can't get rid of thinking because it's not there anyway.  It's an illusion of thought.  Trying to change the way we think or reduce our thinking, or anything like that, is going to be a really fraught and ultimately fruitless endeavour, because it's like trying to punch out a character in a film from our seat in the cinema audience.  All we'll do is get frustrated, and look pretty silly.  We might scuff the screen, but that's about it.

And the 'screen' that this specific illusion is being projected onto isn't capable of being scuffed.  So there really is no point that approach at all.  Ok?

Now another subtlety.  The mind isn't 'behind the self'.

The mind is part of the self, like the skeleton is part of the body, and it serves a very similar purpose.

The mind is an illusion - like a pencil drawing of a man is made of lines drawn on paper.  The illusion of thought, the illusion of mind - this is the pencil line of the drawing.

The moral colour and emotional quality that fill that illusion is like the crayon that fills in the colour between the lines.  Is this clear enough?  Crayon and pencil.  Colour and line.  The colour fleshes out the structure, like crayons flesh out the structure of a line drawing.

But both together make the image.  In our case, both together make that self.

Do you understand?  The lines and the colour, both together make the image.  It takes both, and it needs both - because this image has one purpose, with two aspects.  The purpose is to display, to create a distinctive and unforgettable display of us.

The first aspect of this is - yes, it has to be compelling.  But the second is that it has to look coherent.  It has to make sense as a picture, as an image.  Splurge colours all over a page and no matter how vivid they are, all we're making is a mess.  Unless of course, we intend to sell it as modern art, in which case we may make a killing.

But evolution isn't Charles Saatchi.  The display of self must look coherent, as well as compelling.

Both together make the self.  Coherent and compelling, in seemingly seamless unity.

Ok?  Subtle - but with huge consequences.

What consequences?  Well, if we see the self as being this thing with mind behind it, there's a division there.  Moving parts, if we will.  This bit does that thing to this other bit.  And once we start looking at it like that, we start trying to analyse, and churning out huge amounts of thought.

Except we know... that it's not thought, is it?

Is it?  When we analyse, we're not actually analysing.  There is no analytical capacity in the brain.  There's just pattern recognition, and the ability to weave stories of linear logic.

What happens when we stop looking, and start analysing?

It's the illusion of thought, which to us, in trying to do anything here, is literally just useless noise.

Useless noise that can - and has - literally trapped millions in it until their dying day.  It enamours us, we love the idea of ourselves as thinkers.  The idea of analysis literally dominates Western philosophy today, and you can't get a job as a philosopher in a university, unless you bend the knee to it.  And it's nothing, it doesn't exist.  And so thousands of brilliant, clever, hardworking, serious and decent people churn away their whole lives and die, chasing that rainbow.  And our culture howls out for lack of wisdom - or at least it would if it had the wisdom to.  And this is world in which we live.

Small differences, big consequences.  Big stakes, really big.

There's no moving parts.  This bit doesn't do that thing to make this other thing happen.  Thought processes don't create the illusion of mind as a backing for the self.

Thought processes are the illusion of mind, which is a fundamental component of the self.

Again - let's take our time with this.  Let's not just read it and forget it, let's take the time to get the details right.  These tiny little things, neglected, are what make so many people - good people, decent people, serious people - spend 40-50 years or more just working this, and never getting anywhere.

This is why - they're looking at big shiny beliefs, and not looking for small subtle contour.  Small is where the action is, pay attention to the details, they're what make the difference.

"Emotions fuel the mating display, so ramping them up (creating drama), or joining someone else's drama allows people to give a very vivid display of self."

Yes, this is exactly right.  Spot on.

"Others respond to the display and it's pretty self-reinforcing for most. A few of us break it ."

No.  None of us break it.  The display of self is what the brain is doing.  In everyone.  It's what the brain evolved to do, like the heart evolved to beat.  We cannot stop it, or turn it off.  Even that flavour of reality is being produced by the brain's right hemisphere in response to reality, and so it is part of the illusion of self, just as much as the mind is.

We can veer toward one side or the other, or we can find some way to reach an equilibrium but we'll never stop it from happening, short of putting a shotgun in our mouths, and painting the wall behind we with 'hint of brain'.  And I have a feeling that might create more problems than it solves, at least for whoever has to clean up the mess.

"And some of us are born without whatever it is, or maybe it's a little defective and what the fuck is wrong with us."

No.  No-one's born without this.  Nobody.  If our brain is physically intact, with no major birth defects, this is what it does.

If there are birth defects, then this is what it does, badly.

Is this clear?  That this is what the brain does, it is a projector, projecting self.  A twin-lensed projector - one side (the left hemisphere) weaving an illusion of structure, the illusion of thoughts that never happen, the illusion of a self that simply isn't, and the other side (the right hemisphere) filling all this in with quality, contour and emotion.

"Being able to stay with the immediacy of your own experience. To stay within the moment of "now" and not be wandering off in your head somewhere."

I have literally never said this.  This is Eckhart Tolle.

Now, I've gone very deeply into Tolle's work - in many ways it was my introduction to Eastern thought.  The guy is brilliant, and clearly has it working for him, and he explains things with an incredible simplicity, because he sees things with an incredible simplicity after 30 years of living like this.

30 years is a very long time, especially if, as Tolle does, we move totally away from all thought and memory, and emphasise only the quality of experience, the flavour of the real.  Live in that for 30 years, and it will seem very simple to us.

But when the devil's in the details, 30 years away from ever having to deal with the structure of delusion is not a help for those still in it, who desperately need precision, whether they know it or not.

Precision matter too, especially when we're trying to get this up and running from scratch.  "Pain body" is not particularly precise.  "The pain body cannot long withstand presence" is even riskier still.  And why?

Because when artificially contrived conflict is the fundamental nature of the problem we're trying to solve, any level of antagonism in the method we use to solve it is going to get, nine times out of ten, blown out of all proportion, and come to dominate and destroy what we are trying to do.

Is this making sense?  Small things - big consequences.

These things are very important in getting this working, they're as important as oxygen is to life.  Reality is a ruthless thing, and it will literally sit back and watch us destroy ourselves over something we never saw, and it will not intervene and explain it to us, ever.

That's why detail matters, and precision matters, especially with things of depth.

So let's go back to the email:

"Being able to stay with the immediacy of your own experience. To stay within the moment of "now" and not be wandering off in your head somewhere."

We can no more escape the immediacy of experience, or leave it, or go outside of the moment of now, than we can jump to moon on a space-hopper.

Wherever we are, whatever's going on, whatever thoughts we are having about the future, whatever feelings we are having about the past - they're all happening now, or they're not happening.

This is the case.  It's the case whether or not we're thinking about it, whether or not we agree, whether or not it conflicts with our deepest beliefs, whether or not we're looking right at it, whether or not  we've never heard anyone say anything like this.  It is the case anyway.  It's what's going on.

Now if we see that - the fact that regardless of whether or not we are wandering off, all our wandering is still always and already contained in the moment of existence like all things that exist - we're doing something different.

We're not trying to hold ourselves in a certain position, facing the now, that sort of thing.  Tolle once referred to it as the "tightrope of now".  But then, where will we fall if we slip off the tightrope?  Into then?  Nope.  Still now.

Instead of trying to hold that position, we're seeing the context within which all positions occur.  This is a different level of thing, a different kind of thing.  We must see the difference, or we'll mistake one for the other, and we'll be stuck on a tightrope for the rest of our lives.

Small things, big consequences.

Because if we approach this by trying to stay with the immediacy of our own experience, and trying to stay looking at the moment of now, that's not freedom.  That's a cage.

The liberation that comes with this is not that all the experience - daydreaming, memory, feelings, whatever - goes away, and we are left blissful because everything else has been excised.  That's not liberation, that's a narrowing of experience to a tiny slice.  If we can train ourselves for decades, yes, we can live like this, and we'll be very nice company, if a little quiet.

But that is the only ending to that story, that is the only destination of that path.  Do that for 40 years, and the best we can ever hope for is that we're happy with a life of silence.  That's what happens, and many are very happy indeed with it.  But to do that means missing another path, a different way.

And it's that we don't need to train ourselves to see what is already and always happening, whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not.  And what is already happening is that we are already in the now, everything we do is, everything we are is, and it always will be.  And what we are is an illusion - an illusion that is occurring where all things occur.  Now.

"This is all that is real. The immediacy of our experience that is."

Yes, this is true.

"Why not be the best versions of ourselves?"

No.  I never said anything like this, this I think might be from Tony Robbins.

It's not so much that we should be a better or worse version of ourselves.

That's not what I'm getting at, and that's not the point of what I teach.  At the same time, doing this successfully will - incidentally - make us massively less conflicted, much more open to life, far less unhappy and vastly more capable of doing things that are genuinely great.

But reaching for all these things, or worse - trying to be the 'you' that's already great, or already less conflicted, or already less unhappy, or already more capable - isn't going to work.

The former because all we'll do is live a life reaching for something that isn't there - because it's just a fiction chasing a fiction, we'll never catch it.

The second because it's just another show.  A show of being great, a show of being less conflicted, a show of being less unhappy.

Neither will ever work, ever, under any circumstances.  They might look like they're working for a while, if we really go for it, but that's of use to nobody.  'Looking like it works for a while' falls apart when the rubber meets the road, and sooner or later it will.  Probably sooner.

"Why not short-cut the pain of the self, to cut it off at the knees as it were."

Yes, better.  Much better.  Not fighting it, or beating it, but getting right underneath the process - down to the small, to the simple, to the subtle differences - and disrupting the feedback processes that give rise to blindness and suffering in the first place.

"To throw off the oppression of our social conditioning and become who we are."

Yes - to a degree.  Again, subtle, subtle, subtle.

We live in a profoundly selfish society, where consumption, greed and craving are met with polished product,  and polished ideas, and fed, and grow.  It is very easy for us to dismiss this kind of thing, to be cynical about anything that can effect genuine change in life.

It is even easier still to recast things like this in bright and shiny terms, make it sound fancy and big - even just to ourselves - because that's what we do, it's what we have grown up with, it's what we know.

But it goes even deeper than that.  This isn't a Western-consumer-culture problem, it just manifests in the way it does because that's the culture we (or at least some of us) have grown up with.  But when we really get down to it, this is a human problem, that is emanating from the core of humanity, from what humanity actually is, from the basic functions of it.

And so yes, true - but see the subtlety.  It's not about becoming who we are, as if this ideal you is hovering there, waiting to be found.

What can be done instead is that by interrupting the basic feedback mechanisms that amplify suffering and delusion, we naturally revert to a far more stable state.

In that state, not being blinded by all the pain or ideology, things that are hidden become plain.  The unity of flavour that runs through experience.  The wonderful experience of living, of just being alive.

These aren't things we train to do, they're not positions we hold.  They're characteristics of the human experience that just become much more apparent when we're not chasing our own tails.

Symptoms, not causes.

"To revel in reality and become a force within it."

Again, yes - but this is not something that we do, and it sorts us out.

This is an option that becomes available to us when the chaos fades.  We don't have to do this, we can Tibetan Monk it up, and live in the stillness.  But we don't have to do that either, we can revel in reality and become a force within it.

Or rather (again, a subtlety) recognise that we actually have no real force at our disposal whatsoever, anymore than a picture of a footballer can kick a football... but reality has a great deal of force, so if you bend the knee to the real, force can be exerted.  But this sounds quite abstract, and what I'm talking about isn't magic.

It's just like engineering or something - we don't get to decide how the forces acting on a bridge work, but if we are humble enough to leave behind our ideas of what should do what, and pay attention to the reality of what actually does what, regardless of what we want to believe, and work with that reality, then we can build a hell of a bridge.  That's all I'm saying here.  It's not magic.

"When it comes to all of our various emotions, you just accept and experience them. Honor them. But undercut the drama, take away their shit-storm creating powers by just recognizing them for what they really are." 

Yes, spot on.

"Your simple human feelings, whatever they may be and however intense they may be. Evolved responses to stimuli. No story."


Our simple human feelings are not evolved responses to stimuli.

Let me just say that again.

Our simple human feelings are not evolved responses to stimuli.

They are something of a very different nature.  Not just a different thing, but a different kind of thing.  Our simple human feelings have much more in common, evolutionarily, with the colours on the tail of a peacock, than with a peacock's response to stimuli.

Stop, and consider what I'm saying.  It really matters.  Because even though, again, this might seem like some kind of small philosophical nicety, some little academic theory that's of limited use only as a conversation piece around a dinner table, in fact, it's something else.

The emotions that we have, have a very different agenda to the one we think they do.  They are not there as normal responses to stimuli.  If they were, human beings wouldn't be so chaotic, volatile, deluded and unhappy.

What our emotions instead do is use stimuli as an excuse to be come as intense and vivid as possible.

Can you see?  A very different dynamic, a very different agenda.  Different properties because it's a different kind of thing to what we think it is.

It's not just what we think it is, but it also does this other stuff.  It's not what we think it is at all.  It only does other stuff.

Of course, all emotions do come wrapped and packaged in reasons.  Reasons for this feeling, reasons for that feeling.  They look like emotional responses to stimuli because that is the point of the illusion.

They are in fact, not that.  At all.  Really.

And because of this, there's always a pressure to extremes.  Extremes of feeling, extremes of thought, extremes of ideology.  This is the process playing out in us, all of us, all the time, because the point of emotions, their primary evolutionary purpose, is to be extreme, to be vivid, to show.

Now when you say "No story," you're onto something there.  The reasons that the emotions use to cloak themselves in always take a narrative form, because linear cause and effect is a basic characteristic of the illusion of thought, the illusion of mind.

Interdicting extreme emotion at the point of story is, therefore, a hell of a lot more effective than just sort of shouting at it.

But the point here is this.  Emotion's not the problem.  Extreme is the problem.  The process of amplification - that's what the problem is, nothing else.

Get clarity on this.  It's very easy, especially if we read a lot in this area, to get a head full of mess.  Clarity isn't just a nice thing to have, it's essential.  We're not doing anything else, we're not working for anything else, we're not pushing for anything else, or trying to do anything else... except.... disrupt the process by which feelings become amplified.

Everything else in this, everything, everything, everything, happens as an incidental effect of that single, central process.

And there's a lot of 'everything else' and it's all very exciting, and it's all very interesting, and it's all very fancy, but that's the crux, that's the fulcrum, that's the nodal point.  Everything else flows from it.

"If you can, find love. Friendship. Community."

Well, sure, of course... they're nicer to have than not.  But if we haven't got a handle on that process that's amplifying our emotions - both positive and negative - we'll mess up love, we'll break our friendships, and we'll damage whatever community we're part of.

But then, we might think - why wouldn't I want to amplify positive emotions?

The answer is simple.  Because if we successfully do it, we can't stop.  We get higher and higher, more and more cocky, more and more intense, and then, in the words of Tom Cruise's drill sergeant, our egos start writing cheques our bodies can't cash.  Or our capabilities, or our resources, or whatever.

And then we collapse into a downward spiral.  And it's really, really unpleasant, and we can get stuck in that forever, and it's really not a nice place.  And even if we do get out, we'll do a lot of damage to our lives, and those around us, while we're in it.

Clarity on the central process, that's the key.  Everything else happens around it, and if that central process isn't addressed, nothing else, love, family, whatever, is going to hold together for long.

"Faith in something, even if it's just in your ability or provide for the people in your life. Or faith in the idea that shit will get better. Just keep trying."


I use the word "faith" sometimes, but I always take care, whenever I do, to explain exactly what kind of faith I'm talking about.  And I'm not talking about anything like what you've written here.

Again - what I'm about to say might seem subtle, but this is the big tamale.  This is the small little thing that, if we get it right, we can actually sort out the central process that amplifies emotions, and causes the suffering and volatility of the human condition.

If you can't reassess what you think I mean by this, or if you can't get your head around what I'm about to say, you will never get anything from my work, and should immediately stop reading it, because it will be of no value to you whatsoever.

Pay attention.  Pay close attention here.

Faith is not magic.  It's not about just believing that things will get better, or that people are nice, or that we can do things.  That has no use.  None.  It's just words, and words are wind.  That kind of thinking works great when things are going great, but then - everything works great when things are going great.

What we need is something that works regardless of how things are going.  That works on the upswing as well as the down.  Something that strikes, surgically, to the core process that's destabilising us.

That is what we need here, and no - faith in anything won't cut it.  At all.

I know I'm taking a while to hammer this point in, but this is key.  Having faith in anything doesn't do anything.  It makes us feel a little more chipper when we're already feeling chipper.  That's it.

When we spiral out, we will rapidly find that we are brought to a place where such faith has the strength and grip of a climbing hook made of jelly.  It just won't do it.

There is a highly specific form of faith, just one, just one form of faith, nothing else, that can interdict the core process that's amplifying emotion, just one.

I talk about it at length in One Song, I talk about it at length in the article Faith.  I'll go over it again here, but bear in mind - we need to pay attention.  We do not already know this.  We have not heard this before.  It is not common in society for things like this to be said.

And it is not faith as it is commonly understood.  It is radically, radically different.

It works like this.

If we have an idea that we think is really, really good, or a mood that we really like, or a feeling that we really enjoy, or anything that is good which happens to us, that thing will not last forever.

That's just the way things go.  Everything that is born, dies.  And things like thoughts, ideas and feelings die very, very fast in the great scheme of things.  It's very unusual to have a mood last longer than, say, three days or so.  It happens, but it's rare, and even a three day mood is a rare thing.

When it starts to fade - and pay attention - when it starts to fade, there is always a great temptation to grasp at it, or try and hold onto it.

Ok?  Very simple stuff.  Don't switch off.  Pay attention.

Now, if that thing is, say, an idea - we want to keep that idea.  We try to remember it, try to repeat it, try to keep it in mind.

But if that idea is true, we don't need to keep it in mind for it to remain true.  And if it's not true, then we don't want to keep it in mind anyway, because it's not true.

If we have no faith at all that our idea is true, and it's just an idea that makes us feel good, and we don't care about anything else, the only option available to us is to hold onto it.

If we have no faith that it's true, we don't think it's going to come back once it goes and we forget it, because why would it?

Can you see?  The grasping extends from having no faith that our idea is true.

If we, on the other hand, do have faith that our idea is true, no matter what it is, we can just let it slide away.

Now, again - here's a really subtle thing, but it has massive consequences, so pay attention.

I'm not telling you to let go of ideas, or feelings.

It's about you not grasping after them when they fade on their own.

Can you see?  Can you see the difference?

Again, really subtle, but huge.  Huge consequences.

If we try 'letting go' of all ideas and feelings, we'll just turn ourselves into another caricature of 'me letting go'. People do it all the time, it's everywhere.  And it's just another show, it doesn't interdict the core process, it's just one more manifestation of it.

But... if we're just not grasping after things as they themselves fade, then we open up a new kind of faculty.

A new capacity, a new way to approach things.

This is powerful enough when we do it with negativity - "if this fear is real, it's still be real tomorrow, I'll deal with it then."  Powerful stuff.

But not as powerful as doing this with positivity.  That's the key, that's the game-changer.  Do it with something good.  That's what gives it weight and heft.

Letting things we don't want anyway slide away isn't really that big of a decision.  We don't want them anyway, so it doesn't really mean anything.  It's like that saying from the Bible - "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?"

What is in any way different or special about loving those who love us?  Everyone does that.  It's easy, and it means nothing.  Same thing here.  If  we're just letting go of things we want to go of?  What does that matter?  What does that mean?


Nothing has changed in the terms of how you are approaching life.  We're just trying to let go of things you want to let go of anyway.  So what?

But letting go of things we do want, be they amazing ideas, wonderful feelings, anything like that - that decision is a completely different kind of animal.  It has far greater weight and heft, and it opens up a completely new approach to things.

We're not just letting things slide out because they're bad.  If we're doing that, any nasty feeling can stick and entrench forever, just by waving a carrot in our faces and saying "well, if you could only get rid of me, then you'd be so happy, and everything would be wonderful."

Sound familiar?  Ever thought that?  That's the main hook suffering has over people.  That in some way or other it portrays itself as a gateway to goodness, and better days.  And if weve never, never been able to let go of goodness and better days?  Then it can and will play us like a puppet until we die.  And that will be our lives.  For real.  Not karma, no judge from on high, no divine retribution.  Just the way reality works, and it's more than harsh enough, and it's very fast, and it's very real.

If we let good things slide out, that's something different.  It's a very conscious thing, and very simple.  Just when we start feeling a good mood or a great idea subsiding, just let it subside.  When we start grasping for it, just stop.  Let it go.

In a way it's quite emotional, like saying goodbye to a friend almost, and just trusting to fate that if they're a real friend, they'll come back.  Just like that.  Yeah?

And when you do it, you'll probably find (as I did) that it was a very strange thing - it was basically something I had literally never done before, in my life.

I don't think many people have.  And it's like discovering that we can move our neck in a full 360 spin, it's a faculty we never use, and we never explore, we never develop.

And it all boils down to one thing, one simple single - and highly specific - kind of faith.

Faith in reality.

And not REALITY as this big awesome booming thing.  Just reality, just the coherence of reality, just normal reality.

Once we start doing that, all of a sudden we open up a new option of how to deal with life.

If it's real, I don't need to grasp onto it for it to stay real.  If it's not, who cares?

And again - not hammering it like a mantra.  It's not an incantation, it isn't magic.  It's just an approach, a new option, a rule of thumb, a basic simple way to approach any and all grasping, no matter what it is.

And this approach means that good feelings don't amplify and become this manic euphoria.  Bad feelings don't spiral out and become these jagged, corrosive pits.

And how much of our time is spent in either one or the other?  Either holding on to this idea or that, this way of life or that, this feeling or that, because it makes us feel good..... or....

Spiralling out into darkness?

We tend to get along doing the first, and every now and then, spiral out into the second.  And that's human life.  That's what it's like.

But we don't need to live like this.  Faith in reality - not faith in anything, not faith in our friends, not faith in our lifestyles, not faith in our communities, not faith in our religions, not faith in our rationality, or even rationality itself.

None of that.  Faith in reality.  Just that specific one.  That's the one that has the traction.  Just that.

And when all this hubbub and chaos, the extremes of striving and posturing fade.  Again, it's the extremes that of striving and posturing that are the problem, not striving and posturing.  Striving is fine, it's how we get things done.  Posturing is wonderful... if it's funny.  But the extremes of them are the norm for the way we live in the world, and they don't have to be.

And when they are allowed to fade out, then the things that become apparent in the absence of all that noise, are things like the flavour of love that permeates all human experience.

But things like that are symptoms, not causes.

The core issue is the amplification of pain, suffering, delusion.

Now, I didn't expect to have to write so much here, but I hope you understand why I've gone into such detail.  The devil's in the details, and if think you can fudge this, or just think something nice and good things will happen, think again.

This only works when you step away from those big noisy ideals of 'beating oppression' or 'finding the true me' or any of this romance.  Treat romance like it's made of leprosy, and you'll do well in this.

And regardless of our culture - whether American or European, Indian, Chinese, whatever - romance is a huge part of how we are conditioned to approach things.  And that's not because of our societies, although yes, they do in large part dictate the form that romance takes.

It's because of the nature of what we are.  Romance engines, spinning pretty tales that sound wonderful, and have only an incidental connection with reality.

It is vanity.  Pungent, gleaming, polished vanity, and only by being humble, by looking to the small and the simple, not the big and the loud, can we hope to engage with the real.  Because reality doesn't shriek and argue, it doesn't eulogise, it just is how it is - and that 'how' is a very specific thing, that we need to take an interest in.

So take an interest.  And take time.  Take time with all this stuff.  Read it through once, spend a week with it, doing the best you can, then read it through again after a week is done.

And show some people what has been written here.

Give them the chance you just got to make this work for real.


  1. Wow, great work Ciaran. This really brings everything you've put out from the last few months into focus.

  2. agin a damn work of clarity indeed.
    i was working with this thoughts stuffs lately and strangely you happen to get spot on the stuff where i was just hooking around the corner.

    "What our emotions instead do is use stimuli as an excuse to be come as intense and vivid as possible"
    fucking true. our emotions arent just pretty responses to surroundings...rather they just takes the illusion of self make it a bit more colourful and strngthens it with respect to what happens to our surroundings.i dont know how that mechanism occurred into us.?!

    you said: our brains are designed in a way to ultimately project the self..its mind, body and other colours of it. not sure if brains are designed to do that way.does evolution explains it?