Commusings: A Wiggly World featuring Alan Watts and Ram DassSep 23, 2023
Dear Commune Community,
Many of us are seeking a spiritual transformation. And justifiably so. The feeling of being an ego-self locked up in an ever-sagging satchel of skin is both depressing and anxiety-generating. So, we seek – in different ways – mystical experiences. And, by that, I mean an experience that transforms the sensation of being separate from the world to a feeling of inter-being with it.
When we study the human organism scientifically, we discover that there is no such thing as an individual. To be human is to be your bio-psycho organism, conscious and unconscious, in relationship to your environment. You cannot separate the two. You don’t make your own oxygen. Your mitochondria (your energy-producing organelles) have a “non-human” etiology. They are bacterium. You’re a heterotroph – you don’t make your own fuel. Sound and sight are neurological phenomena. They’re just waves in the “external” world. It isn’t until they are converted into electrical signals in the brain that they represent anything. In this sense, the external world is internal to you. And you are in the external world. There is no difference!
But this cognitive understanding of ontology doesn’t represent the way we feel. We scan the world linearly with our limited five senses. Spurred by our biological imperatives, we perceive threat. Our impulse for self-preservation makes us flex our muscles, furrow our brows and increase our breath rate. The clutch of this anxiety underwrites an illusion of self.
So, we want to improve. And, in our pursuit, we seek out every method under the starry sky. But here’s the catch. The part of you that wants to do the improving is itself the illusion. The ego, the symbol you have for yourself, can’t provide you with the transformation you’re looking for.
The irony is that you’re already it. You are the happening. There’s nothing “to do.” You are not doing your heart beat or your digestion or your ATP production. These processes simply arise spontaneously in and of themselves. This is what the Chinese called ziran, which is the best definition of nature that I have stumbled upon – that which is of itself, so. What do we do when there’s no method? We just let go. We blow the whole thing out. That is nirvana, the great exhale.
These revelations, as I have summarized them, reflect the brilliant exhortations of two of my greatest influences, Alan Watts and Ram Dass, whose wisdom we share with you today.
Waxing and waning on IG @jeffkrasno.
In love, include me,
• • •
A Wiggly World
Featuring transcripts courtesy of The Alan Watts Org & Love Serve Remember Foundation in celebration of their new collaboration, Presence of the Way
In a world made up of boxes, where everything was neatly categorized and filed away, there were two individuals who didn’t see things that way. They were seeking different vibrational waves and patterns. Instead of seeing the straight lines and grids of these boxes, they looked at the true wiggly nature of the world.
Alan Watts was a scholar and a philosopher; his ideas were deeply profound yet entirely accessible. Ram Dass was an explorer of human consciousness and heartfulness; his life was his message. Both were essential in transmitting Eastern mysticism to a Western audience, opening the minds and hearts of millions of people.
Though they traveled different paths of spirituality and mindfulness – Alan on the path of non-duality, Ram Dass on the path of Bhakti yoga – they came together in friendship and in understanding the Tao, the way of things. There are many pathways up the mountain, but the destination remains the same.
On this journey to the mountaintop, we come across many obstacles. One of the biggest boulders blocking the path is often the issue of transformation, of shedding the attachment to our identities and the sense of separateness that comes with them. Is true transformation necessary? Is it even possible?
Here is Alan Watts on transformation and the idea of the fundamental self:
You can't transform yourself.
You can't make yourself sane.
You can't make yourself loving.
You can't make yourself unselfish.
And yet it's absolutely necessary that we be that way.
If we are going to hand over the direction of nature to nature, which is what it comes to, it's absolutely necessary that we let go of ourselves — and it can't be done.
Not by anything that we call doing, acting, willing, or even just accepting things. You can't do it.
Why? Because you don't really exist as that kind of a separate ego or personality. It's just an idea based on a phony feeling. It's shocking news for us. For the human race, for our pride. You're only making a mess by trying to put things straight.
You're trying to straighten out a wiggly world, and no wonder you're in trouble. So you can't do anything. You can't transform yourself.
So what can you do? What happens then, if you actually realize you've come to a dead end? And the human race has come to a dead end, in my opinion. What then? Commit suicide? Or is there something else? What happens when you just wait because there's nothing you can do? You watch. And all you see is what goes on that is happening of itself.
You're breathing, the wind is blowing, the trees are waving, your blood is circulating, your nerves are tingling. It's all going on of itself. But you know, that's you; that's the real you. The you that goes on of itself. It's not the symbol; it's not the person. It's you that's happening as when you breathe. Yes, you can get the feeling that you are breathing by shoving your breath in and out, but your breath goes on day in and day out without you doing anything about it, or even thinking of it. The same way your brain is functioning without your forcing it.
So when you come to a dead end, and we are individually and socially – now in 1971 – at a dead end, this is the moment of which it is said “man's extremity is God's opportunity.” Because we have to stop. And when we stop, we find a world that is happening rather than being done, being shoved. And that happening, as distinct from doing, is our fundamental self. And our fundamental self is not something just inside the skin. It's everything around us with which we connect. When you look out of your eyes at nature happening out there, you're looking at you.
I'm not going to say what we should do from then on. But simply, that before we think of doing anything in this critical situation, we realize the completely illusory nature of the beings that we think we are. And get back again to the beings that we really are, which includes all this outside world, no longer left outside.
And here is Ram Dass on separateness and transformation:
The art form of the whole dance is to be born into separateness, to grow and learn in your separateness, because you have to be lost for it to work. You’ve got to get caught in it. And then at some point, to awaken.
At some point, we awaken to the fact that we aren't who we thought we were. As Buddha conveyed in his term anatta — there is no self. There are just sets of phenomena happening. Don't take yourself so seriously. Don't take who you think you are, and how you think it should come out, and what you think is bad, and what you think is good. Have all those opinions, but don't have them.
The Third Chinese Patriarch says, ‘The Way is not difficult for those who have no opinions.’ Try having that for just one minute.
Can you have no opinions and still have opinions?
Can you live outside of time and still dance within time?
Can you be free of the fear of annihilation and still be an instrument for the healing of the world?
Will you become a better one if you are not doing it out of fear, but doing it out of celebratory joy and love?
Everything that you absorb this weekend and I absorb is what we become. We become each other. We become the drum and the flute, we become all of it. We become it. And then it's not what you collect, it's not these notes, obviously. What you really are ready to hear, you are. And what you are will affect everything you do. See how it's scary for you to say, ‘Well, what should I do?’ Because we'll hear a lot of what we should do. And my answer would be, ‘It doesn't matter.’ And you don't want to hear that. That's a scary place to be.
Trust that if you say it doesn't matter and you're open to all possibilities, out of that will come, like judo or aikido, the act coming out of the silence that will transform. You will be in the existential moment now, and now, and now, and now.
The best preparation for the year 2000 or your own death is this moment. The best preparation in this moment is to be free of concept. Prolong not the past, invite not the future. Honor the past, honor its wisdom, but don't recreate it.
Or maybe you will recreate it but do it from a place not of fear and of trying to go back, but of opening and listening, so you are all of it. And then out of that will come. Aah, aah…
It's the transformation from doing good to being good.
So I would say: You and I took birth. We all got lost in the drama. The drama's really seductive and it's got us. And we are extricating ourselves from the molasses-like quality of it in order to have our awareness free even while we are informed with all of our pain, fear, heart, and all of that.
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