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Quotes from the book Waking Up

This is a collection of nice quotes I extracted from Sam’s book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.

We rehearse past conversations - thinking about what we said, what we didn’t say, what we should have said. We anticipate the future, producing a ceaseless string of words and images that fill us with hope or fear. We tell ourselves the story of the present, as though some blind person were inside or heads who require continuous narration to know what is happening. Who are we talking to? No one else is there. And we seem to imagine that if we just keep this inner monologue to ourselves, it is perfectly compatible with mental health.

Every moment of the day - indeed, every moment throughout one’s life - offers an opportunity to be relaxed and responsive or to suffer unnecessarily.

Our habitual identification with thought - that is, our failure to recognize thoughts as thoughts, as appearances in consciousness is a primary source of human suffering. It also gives rise to the illusion that a separate self is living inside one’s head.

From the contemplative point of view, being lost in thoughts of any kind, pleasant or unpleasant, is analogous to being asleep and dreaming. It’s a mode of not knowing what is actually happening in the present moment. It is essentially a form o psychosis.

Thoughts themselves are not the problem, but being identified with thought is. Taking oneself to be the thinker of one’s thoughts - that is, not recognizing the present thought to be a transitory appearance in consciousness - is a delusion that produces nearly every species of human conflict and unhappiness.

Without much practice one can discover that the sense of self - the sense that there is a thinker behind one’s thoughts, an experiencer amid the flow of experience - is an illusion.

One must be able to pay attention closely enough to glimpse what consciousness is like between thoughts - that is, prior to the arising of the next one. Consciousness does not feel like a self. Once one realizes this, the status of thoughts themselves, as transient expressions of consciousness, can be understood.

The ultimate wisdom of enlightenment, whatever it is, cannot be a matter of having fleeting experiences. The goal of meditation is to uncover a form of well-being that is inherent to the nature of our minds. It must, therefore, be available in the context of ordinary sights, sounds, sensations, and even thoughts. Peak experiences are fine, but real freedom must be coincident with normal waking life.

Being able to stand perfectly free of the feeling of self is the start of one’s spiritual journey, not it’s end.

If you are anxious before giving a speech, become willing to feel the anxiety fully, so that it becomes a meaningless pattern of energy in your mind and body.

Every moment can be delightful if you pay real attention to it.

Psychedelics such as psilocybin, LSD, DMT and mescaline all powerfully alter cognition, perception, and mood.

Consciousness is simply the light by which the contours of mind and body are known. It is that which is aware of feelings such as joy, regret, amusement, and despair. It can seem to take their shape for a time, but it is possible to recognize that it never quite does. In fact, we can directly experience that consciousness is never improved or harmed by what it knows. Making this discovery, again and again, is the basis of spiritual life.

Spirituality begin with a reverence for the ordinary that can lead us to insights and experiences that are anything but ordinary. And the conventional opposition between humility and hubris has no place here. Yes, the cosmos is vast and appears indifferent to our moral schemes, but every present moment of consciousness is profound. In subjective terms, each of us is identical to the very principle that brings value to the universe. Experiencing this directly - not merely thinking about it - is the true beginning of spiritual life.

How to meditate

Sit comfortably, with your spine erect, either in a chair or cross-legged on a cushion.

Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and feel the points of contact between your body and the chair or the floor. Notice the sensations associated with sitting feeling of pressure, warmth, hiring tingling, vibration, etc.

Gradually become aware of the process of breathing. Pay attention to wherever you feel the breath most distinctly - either at your nostrils or in the rising and falling of your abdomen.

Allow your attention to rest in the mere sensation of breathing. (You don’t have to control your breath. Just let it come and go naturally.)

Every time your mind wanders in thought, gently return it to breath.

As you focus on the process of breathing, you will also perceive sounds, bodily sensations, or emotions. Simply observe these phenomena as they appear in consciousness and then return to the breath.

The moment you notice that you have been lost in though, observe the present thought itself as an object of consciousness. Then return you attention to the breath - or to any sounds or sensations arising in the next moment.

Continue in this way until you can merely witness all objects of consciousness - sights, sounds, sensations, emotions, even thoughts themselves - as they arise, change, and pass away.