Who Is Really Mentally Ill?

defeat depression health topics psychiatric medications self improvement

Hallucination (huh-loo-suhney-shuh n) : a sensory experience of something that does not exist outside the mind, caused by various physical and mental disorders, or by reaction to certain toxic substances, and usually manifested as visual or auditory images.

Psychiatry has built an entire infrastructure around the definition of normal.

In my training, I learned clinical, diagnostic terms like “magical thinking” to pedantically dismiss any flourishes of wonderment, “delusions of reference” to coldly malign any experience of meaning or synchronicity, and even “grandiosity” if you might deign to think too much of yourself.

When human behavior is medicalized, the foundation of a shared belief system is set up. Some behaviors are unacceptable, some are not. And conforming to these expectations – even through force and involuntary submission, retention, and medication – is essential to reinforcing what is considered normal. Those who are not performing their expected part in the machinery of this system are deemed less or non-functional (the quantification of which, psychiatry assigns a numerical value based on the Global Assessment of Functioning metric scale). But what if it is, as Krishnamurti warned, “no measure of health to be well-adapted to a profoundly sick society”? What if being “functional” requires buying into an entire matrix of illusions, many of which require a total divorce from one’s own soul?

Mental Illness as an indicator of sensitivity

It’s my belief that those who are mentally ill are the canaries in this coal mine. Whose bodies, minds, and spirits are exquisitely sensitive to all that is off, amiss, misaligned, and divergent from truth. What if these illnesses are a special invitation to wake up, to embody, and to move through a dark night, a tight passage, shedding one more artificial skin, revealing a layer closer to an unfettered experience of being, of freedom, and of joy. A sometimes loud reminder to stop eating chemical food, stop participating in the poisoning of this planet, stop working just to work, and start making room for whatever it takes to awaken.

In this case, those hallucinating are those who still believe, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, that we are, as my favorite philosopher, Alan Watts says, flesh robots on a dead rock, spinning out in the middle of nowhere. That the natural world is an indifferent backdrop subject to random forces that we must shield ourselves from. Those who still believe, despite the grossly exposed limitations of the model, that Newtonian physics – linear cause and effect, what you get out is what you put in, push-pull hydraulics – reigns over subtler, nonlinear quantum processes. Quantum physics introduces all manner of uncomfortable concepts to those firmly fixated on the delusional belief that there is an objective, quantifiable, measurable reality of known variables that predictably govern a non-sentient universe.

What if this is a collectively held delusion? Those who have had mystical experiences know that it is but an illusion that our selfness is between our ears and behind our eyes, and that the natural world needs to be managed and controlled. We know that we emerge from the complexity of beingness on this planet and that there is no objective good and bad, and perhaps no objective anything at all.

Alan Watts, puts it this way:

I wonder what you mean when you use the word I.

I’ve been very interested in this problem for a long, long time. And I’ve come to the conclusion that what most civilized people mean by that word is a hallucination—that is to say a false sense of personal identity that is at complete variance with the facts of nature.

And as a result of having a false sense of identity, we act in a way that is inappropriate to our natural environment. And when that inappropriate way of action is magnified by a very powerful technology, we swiftly begin to see the results of a profound discord between man and nature.

As is well known, we are now in the process of destroying our environment as a result of an attempt to conquer it and master it. And we have not realized therefore that our environment is not something other than ourselves.

In assuming that it is, we have made a great mistake and are now paying the price for it.

Resolving the hallucinations of the dominant narrative

The thing is, that a hallucination that becomes aware of itself, dissolves, if it is, indeed a hallucination. In the case of the dominant belief system – the most collectively shared hallucination – this is called awakening and it has everything to do with generating an awareness of the story that we have been telling ourselves.

We have been telling ourselves that we control our lives – or we wouldn’t experience anxiety.

We have been telling ourselves that we are supposed to simply feel ok with what is happening on this planet – or we wouldn’t feel depressed.

We have been telling ourselves that the world is unsafe – or we wouldn’t feel paranoid.

We have been telling ourselves to stay in line, punch the clock, and behave – or we wouldn’t get manic.

So what if we simply turn the light on and wake up to the story and recognize it as such.

Here’s how to wake up and dissolve the illusion:

1. Feel better

Information, in and of itself, changes nothing. We have to experience the truth, viscerally, for our bodies, minds, and spirits to shift and open. In order to generate the conditions of a reunion with the natural world, and a felt sense of having emerged from it, it becomes critical to experience the environment as an inextricable part of oneself. This means that nature is rendered sacred again. The human organism is seen as a miracle before which your consciousness bows. In this light, the only proper comportment is to strip away chemicals and the participation in a chemical free lifestyle, eat whole organic food, and begin the process of healing from many years of desecration. It is my belief that these simple behaviors – being in nature, cleaning up your consumerism, your eating, and beginning to detox – not only result in feeling better but in feeling apart, feeling held, and feeling a deep sense of ok-ness that stands in sharp contrast to the feeling of discord generated by the modern lifestyle.

2. Know better

Once you feel better, you are ready to learn about why. This is a good time to explore the wisdom of our forefathers and mothers, of indigenous cultures, and of modern visionaries. If you’re attracted to science as a means of narrating our shared perceptions, then begin to enjoy a growing body of science that tells a totally different story about the natural world, healing, and the wonder of this planet. Continue to look at the places where you may still be asleep, delusional, or hallucinating!

Part of this process is claiming radical responsibility for your journey, your decisions, and your experience. If you can reclaim all of the energy you are putting towards blaming, resenting, hating, and otherwise feeling victimized, you will be amazed at the experience of empowerment that results. Deeper change, reflexive self-examination, and compassion towards others comes from this shift in perspective.

3. Do better

Once you feel better and you know better, then you are ready to live differently – to do better. But here’s the surprising news. There’s no pilgrimage required, no major planning or strategy, no big decisions. Doing better, in an awakened state, involves simply caring for yourself – kneeling at the altar of your body and getting clear enough to see the programs of fear and control when they creep back into your consciousness. Getting clear involves pausing, every day.

This is how you keep the “I” illusion at bay. You resist the temptation to do, fix, better yourself and your life circumstances endlessly. You let it be. You say yes, I accept. And you work with the flow. You give to others even when you feel most in need. In short, you burn your stories and you have faith. Watts says,

“To have faith is like when you trust yourself to the water. You don’t grab hold of the water when you swim, because if you do you will become stiff and tight in the water, and sink. You have to relax, and the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging, and holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”

Call it living in the Matrix, call it hallucinating, call it Biopolitic, or Maya, if you live life according to what mainstream media, government, and appointed authorities say is, there will come a time when you crack. Freak out. Or choose to opt out. Or when you simply leave the premises. You’ll be labeled with ADHD, Generalized Anxiety, Major Depression, Schizophrenia, or Bipolar Disorder. You will be told you are the sick one, that something is wrong with your inbuilt hardware. The figurative bone will be pointed at you and the collective will support your containment, restraint, and oppression to keep the infrastructure of the illusion intact.

But the mortar is cracking. Too many of us who have felt the truth that is spirituality. To be infused with spirit. To feel your own soul. To stop and inspire, breathe, and understand that without the entire ecosystem of beingness on this planet, you yourself are nothing. And once you have felt the fearlessness of this faith, you can never be controlled again, and you are finally free.


I wonder what you mean when you use the word I.

I’ve been very interested in this problem for a long, long time. And I’ve come to the conclusion that what most civilized people mean by that word is a hallucination—that is to say a false sense of personal identity that is at complete variance with the facts of nature.

And as a result of having a false sense of identity, we act in a way that is inappropriate to our natural environment. And when that inappropriate way of action is magnified by a very powerful technology, we swiftly begin to see the results of a profound discord between man and nature.

As is well known, we are now in the process of destroying our environment as a result of an attempt to conquer it and master it. And we have not realized therefore that our environment is not something other than ourselves.

In assuming that it is, we have made a great mistake and are now paying the price for it.

But most people would agree with the lines of the poet who said “I, a stranger and afraid. In a world I never made” because we have the strong sensation that our own being inside our skin is extremely different from the world outside our skin, that while there may be intelligence inside human skins, and while there may be values and loving feelings, outside the skin is a world of mechanical process which does not give a damn about any individual and which is basically unintelligent, being gyrations of blind force, and so far as the merely biological world is concerned, gyrations of libido, which is Freud’s word for “blind lust.”

It should be obvious that the human being goes with the rest of the universe even though we say in popular speech “I came into this world.”

Now, it is not true that you came into this world. You came out of it in the same way as a flower comes out of a plant or a fruit comes out of a tree. And as an apple tree apples, the solar system in which we live, and therefore the galaxy in which we live, and therefore the system of galaxies in which we live, that system peoples. And therefore, people are an expression of its energy and of its nature.

If people are intelligent—and I suppose we have to grant that if—then the energy which people express must also be intelligent because one does not gather figs from thistles and grapes from thorns. But it does not occur, you see, to the ordinary civilized person to regard himself or herself as an expression of the whole universe. It should be obvious that we cannot exist except in an environment of earth, air, water, and solar temperature, that all these things go with us and are as important to us, albeit outside our skins, as our internal organs, heart, stomach, brain, and so forth.

Now, if then we cannot describe the behavior of organisms without at the same time describing the behavior of their environments, we should realize that we have a new entity of description—not the individual organism alone, but what would now be called a field of behavior, which we must call rather clumsily the “organism environment.” You go with your environment in the same way as your head goes with the rest of your body. You do not find in nature faces arriving in the world sui generis; they go with a body.

But also, bodies do not arrive in a world which would be, for example, a plane, ball of scrubbed rock floating without an atmosphere far away from a star. That will not grow bodies. There is no soil for bodies. There is no complexity of environment which is body-producing.

So, bodies go with a very complicated natural environment. And if the head goes with the body, and the body goes with the environment, the body is as much an integral part of the environment as the head is part of the body.

It is deceptive of course because the human being is not rooted to the ground like a tree. A human being moves about and therefore can shift from one environment to another. But these shifts are superficial. The basic environment of the planet remains a constant. And if the human being leaves the planet, he has to take with him a canned version of the planetary environment.

Now, we are not really aware of this. Upon taking thought and due consideration, it does occur to us, yes, indeed, we do need that environment. But in the ordinary way, we don’t feel it, that is to say we don’t have a vivid sensation of belonging to our environment in the same way that we have a vivid sensation of being an ego inside a bag of skin located mostly in the skull about halfway between the ears and a little way behind the eyes. And it issues in these disastrous results of the ego which, according to 19th century common sense, feels that it is a fluke in nature, and that if it does not fight nature, it will not be able to maintain its status as intelligent fluke.

So, the geneticists are now saying, and many others are now saying, that man must take the course of his evolution into his own hands. He can no longer trust the wiggly, random, and unintelligible processes of nature to develop him any further, but he must interfere with his own intelligence, and through genetic alterations, breed the kind of people who will be viable for human society and that sort of thing.

Now, this I submit is a ghastly error because human intelligence has a very serious limitation. That limitation is that it is a scanning system of conscious attention which is linear—that is to say it examines the world in lines rather as he would pass the beam of a flashlight across a room (or a spotlight).

That’s why our education takes so long. It takes so long because we have to scan miles of lines of print. And we regard that, you see, as basic information.

Now, the universe does not come at us in lines. It comes at us in a multi-dimensional continuum in which everything is happening all together everywhere at once. And it comes at us much too quickly to be translated into lines of print or of other information however fast they may be scanned. And that is our limitation so far as the intellectual life and the scientific life is concerned.

The computer will greatly speed up linear scanning, but it’s still linear scanning. And so long as we are stuck with that form of wisdom, we cannot deal with more than a few variables at once.

Now, what do I mean by that? What is a variable? A variable is any one linear process. Let’s take music. When you play a Bach fugue, and there are four parts to it, you have four variables. You have four moving lines, and you can take care of that with two hands. An organist using two feet can put in two more variables and have six going. And you may realize, if you’ve ever tried to play the organ, that it’s quite difficult to make six independent motions go at once. The average person cannot do that without training. The average person cannot deal with more than three variables at once without using a pencil.

Now, when we study physics, we are dealing with processes in which there are millions of variables. This, however, we handle by statistics in the same way as insurance companies use actuarial tables to predict when most people will die. If the average age of death is 65, however, this prediction does not apply to any given individual. Any given individual will live through plus or minus 65 years. And the range of difference may be very wide indeed of course. But this is alright. The 65 guess is alright when you’re doing large-scale gambling. And that’s the way the physicists works in predicting the behavior of nuclear wavicles.

But the practical problems of human life deal with variables in the hundreds of thousands. Here, statistical methods are very poor. And thinking it out by linear consideration is impossible.

With that equipment then we are proposing to interfere with our genes. And with that equipment also, be it said, we are trying to solve our political, economic, and social problems. And naturally, everybody has the sense of total frustration. And the individual fears “Well, what on earth can I do?”

We do not seem to know a way of calling upon our brains because our brains can handle an enormous number of variables that are not accessible to the process of conscious attention. Your brain is now handling your total nervous system, to be more accurate, your blood chemistry, the secretions from your glands, the behavior of millions of cells. It is doing all that without thinking about it—that is to say without translating the processes it is handling into consciously reviewed words, symbols, or numbers.

Now, when I use the word “thinking,” I mean precisely that process, translating what is going on in nature into words, symbols or numbers—of course, both words and numbers are kinds of symbols.

Symbols bear the same relation to the real world that money bears to wealth. You cannot quench anybody’s thirst with the word “water,” just as you cannot eat a dollar bill and derive nutrition from it.

But using symbols and using conscious intelligence—scanning—has proved very useful to us. It has given us such technology as we have.

But at the same time, it has proved too much of a good thing. At the same time, we’ve become so fascinated with it that we confuse the world as it is with the world as it is thought about, talked about, and figured about—that is to say with the world as it is described. And the difference between these two is vast.

And when we are not aware of ourselves except in a symbolic way, we are not related to ourselves at all. We are like people eating menus instead of dinners. And that’s why we all feel psychologically frustrated.

So then we get back to the question of what do we mean by I?

Well, first of all, obviously, we mean our symbol of ourselves. Now, our ourselves in this case is the whole psychophysical organism, conscious and unconscious, plus its environment. That’s your real self.

Your real self, in other words, is the universe as centered on your organism. That’s you.

Let me just clarify that a little for one reason. What you do is also a doing of your environment. Your behavior is its behavior as much as its behavior is your behavior; it’s mutual. We could say it is transactional. You are not a puppet which your environment pushes around, nor is the environment a puppet which you push around. They go together, they act together.

In the same way, for example, if I have a wheel, one side of it going down is the same as the other side of it going up. When you handle the steering wheel of a car, are you pulling it or are you pushing it? No, you’re doing both, aren’t you? When you pull it down this side, you are pushing it up that side. It’s all one.

So, there’s a push-pull between organism and environment. We are only rarely aware of this as when in curious alterations of consciousness, which we call “mystical experience,” “cosmic consciousness,” an individual gets the feeling that everything that is happening is his own doing, or the opposite of that feeling that he isn’t doing anything, but that all his doings, his decisions, and so forth, are happenings of nature.

You can feel it either way. You can describe it in these two completely opposite ways, but you’re talking about the same experience. You’re talking about experiencing your own activity and the activity of nature as one single process. And you can describe it as if you were omnipotent like God or as if it were completely deterministic and you hardly existed at all.

But remember, both points of view are right. And we’ll see where that gets us.

But we don’t feel that, do we, ordinarily? What we feel instead is an identification of ourselves with our idea of ourselves, or I would rather say, with our “image” of ourselves. And that’s the person or the ego.

You play a role, you identify with that role. I play a role. It’s called Alan Watts. And I know very well that that’s a big act. I can play some other roles besides Alan Watts if necessary. But I find this one is better for making a living.

But I assure you, it’s a mask, and I don’t take it seriously. The idea of my being a kind of messiah or guru or savior of the world just breaks me up because I know me. It’s very difficult to be holy in the ordinary sense.

So, I know I’m not that. But most of us are taught to think that we are whom we are called. And when you’re a little child, and you begin to learn a role, and your parents and your peers approve of your being that, they know who you are. You’re predictable, so you can be controlled.

But when you act out of role, and you imitate some other child’s behavior, everybody points the finger and says, “You’re not being true to yourself.” “Johnny, that’s not you. That’s Peter.” And so you learn to stay Peter or to stay Johnny.

But of course, you’re not either… because this is just the image of you. It’s as much of you as you can get into your conscious attention which is precious little.

Your image of yourself contains no information about how you structure your nervous system. It contains no information about your blood chemistry. It contains almost no information about the subtle influences of society upon your behavior. It does not include the basic assumptions of your culture, which are all taken for granted and unconscious. You can’t find them out unless you study other cultures to see how their basic assumptions differ.

It includes all kinds of illusions that you’re completely unaware of as, for example, that time is real and that there is such a thing as a past which is pure hokum. But nevertheless, all these things are unconscious in us and they are not included in our image of ourselves, nor of course included in our image of ourselves. Is there any information about our inseparable relationships with the whole natural universe?

So, this is a very impoverished image. When you ask a person, “What did you do yesterday?” they’ll give you a historical account of a certain number of events in which they participated and a certain number of things which they saw, used, or were clobbered by. But realize at once that this history leaves out most of what happened.

I, in trying to describe what happens to me this evening, will never be able to describe it because there are so many people here that if I were to talk about everyone whom I’ve seen, what they were wearing, what color their hair was, what sort of expressions they had on their faces, I would have to talk through doomsday.

So, instead of this rich physical experience—which is very rich indeed—I have to attenuate it in memory in description to saying, “Oh, I met a lot of people in Philadelphia. There were men, and there were women. Lots of them were young, and some of them were old.” It’s a most utterly impoverished account of what went on.

So, therefore, in thinking of ourselves in this way, what I did yesterday, what I did the day before, in terms of this stringy, mangy account, all I have is a caricature of myself. And you know the caricaturist doesn’t draw you all in; he just put certain salient features whereby people will recognize you. It’s all a skeleton.

So, we are, as it were, conceiving ourselves as a bunch of skeletons. And they’ve got no flesh on them, just a bunch of bones. And no wonder we all feel inadequate!

We’re all looking for something—to the future to bring us the goodie that we know we ought to have. There’s a golden goodie at the end of the line somewhere. There’s a good time coming be it ever so far away, that one far-off divine event which all creation moves… we hope.

And therefore, we say of something that’s no good, it has no future. I would say it has no present, but everybody says it has no future.

Now, here we are, as it were, psychically starved and always therefore looking—seeking, seeking, seeking. And this confused seeking is going on everywhere. We don’t know what we want. Nobody knows what they want. We say, yes, we think of what we want in vague terms—pleasure, money, wealth, love, fulfillment, personal development. But we don’t know what we mean by all that.

If a person really sits down to figure out, write a long essay, 20 pages, on your idea of heaven, it’ll be a sorry production.

You could see it already in medieval art whether it be depictions of heaven and hell. Hell is always much better than heaven—although it’s uncomfortable. It’s a sadomasochistic orgy. Wowie! Hell is really rip-roaring. Whereas all the saints in heaven are sitting very, very smug and demure like they were in church.

And you’ll see also the multitudes of the saved. Instead of this writhing wormy thing, you can see all their heads which the artist has drawn to abbreviate them, just the tops of their heads in masses. They look like cobblestone street flattened out.

So, what has happened then is this, that our eye is an illusion. It’s an image. And it is no more our self than an idol is the godhead.

But we say, “It can’t be so because I feel I really exist. It isn’t just an idea in my head. It’s a feeling. I feel me!” Well, what is it that you feel when you feel I?

Well, what is it that you feel when you feel I, I’ll tell you.

What do you do when somebody says, “Pay attention”? What is the difference between looking at something and taking a hard look at it, or between hearing something and listening intently? What’s the difference? What’s the difference between waiting while something goes on and enduring it?

Why, the difference is this.

When you pay attention instead of just looking, you screw up your face. You frown and stare. That is a muscular activity around here. When you will, you grit your teeth or clench your fists. When you endure or control yourself, you pull yourself together physically, and therefore, you get uptight. You hold your breath. You do all kinds of muscular things to control the functioning of your nervous system. And none of them have the slightest effect on the proper operation of the nervous system.

If you stare at things, you will rather fuzz the image than see them clearly. If you listen intently by concentrating on muscles around the ears, you will be so much attending to muscles here that you won’t hear things properly. And you may get singing in the ears. If you tighten up with your body to pull yourself together, all you do is constrict yourself.

I remember in school, I sat next to a boy who had great difficulty in learning to read. And what they always say to children is, “Try! If you can’t do something, you must try!” So the boy tries. And what has he done? When he’s trying to get out words, he grunts and groans as if he were lifting weights. And the teacher is impressed. The boy is really trying and gives him a B for effort.

It has nothing to do with it.

Now, we all make this muscular straining with the thought that it’s achieving psychological results, the sort of psychological results it’s intended to achieve. Now all this amounts to is this. You’re taking off in a jet plane, you’re a mile down the runway. The thing isn’t up in the air yet, you get nervous, so you start pulling at your seatbelt. That’s what it is now.

Now, that is a chronic feeling. We have it in us all the time. And it corresponds to the word I. That’s what you feel when you say I. You feel that chronic tension. When an organ is working properly, you don’t feel it.

If you see your eye, you’ve got cataract. If you hear your ears, you’ve got singing in your ears. You’re getting in the way of hearing. When you are fully functioning, you are unaware of the organ.

When you’re thinking clearly, your brain isn’t getting in your way. Actually, of course, you are seeing your eyes in the sense that everything you see out in front of you is a condition in the optic nerves at the back of the skull. That’s where you’re aware of all this. But you’re not aware of the eye as the eye. I’m talking about the optical eye.

So, when we are aware of the ego I, we are aware of this chronic tension inside ourselves. And that’s not us. It’s a futile tension. So when we get the illusion, the image of ourselves, married to a futile tension, you’ve got an illusion married to a futility. And then, you wonder “why can’t do anything, why feel, in the face of all the problems of the world, impotent, and why somehow cannot manage to transform I.”

Now, here we get to the real problem. We’re always telling each other that we should be different. I’m not going to tell you that tonight. Why not? Because I know you can’t be. I’m not going to. That may sound depressing, but I’ll show you it isn’t. It’s very heartening.

Everybody you see who is at all sensitive and awake to their own problems and human problems is trying to change themselves. We know we can’t change the world unless we change ourselves. If we’re all individually selfish, we’re going to be collectively selfish. If we don’t really love people, and only pretend to, somehow we’ve got to find a way to love. After all, it’s said in the Bible, “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, and your neighbor as yourself.” You must love. Yeah, we all agree. Sure! But we don’t.

In fact, one psychologist very smartly asked a patient, “With whom are you in love against?” And this particularly becomes appalling when we enter into the realm of higher things, by which I mean spiritual development.

Everybody these days is interested in spiritual development—and wisely because we want to change our consciousness. Many people are well aware that this egocentric consciousness is a hallucination. And that they presume it’s the function of religion to change it because that’s what the Zen Buddhists and yogis and all these people in the Orient are doing, they are changing their state of consciousness to get something called satori or mystical experience or nirvana or moksha or what-have-you.

And everybody around here is really enthused about that because you don’t get that in church. I mean, there has been Christian mystics, but the church has been very quiet about them.

In the average church, all you get is talk. There’s no meditation, no spiritual discipline. They tell God what to do interminably as if He didn’t know. And then, they tell the people what to do as if they could or even wanted to. And then, they sing religious nursery rhymes.

And then, to cap it all, the Roman Catholic Church, which did at least have an unintelligible service, which was real mysterious and suggested vast magic going on, they wouldn’t put the thing into bad English. They took away incense, and they took away… they became a bunch of Protestants. The thing was just terrible!

So now, all these Catholics are at loose ends. As Claire Boothe Luce put it—not to be a pun, but she said, “It’s no longer possible to practice contemplative prayer at mass” because you’re being advised, exhorted, edified all the time. That becomes a bore. Think of God listening to all those prayers. I mean, talking about grieving the Holy Spirit. It’s just awful! People have no consideration for God at all.

But in pursuing these spiritual disciplines—yoga and Zen and so forth, and also psychotherapy—there comes up a big difficulty. And the big difficulty is this: I want to find a method whereby I can change my consciousness, therefore to improve myself. But the self that needs to be improved is the one that is doing the improving. And so I’m rather stuck.

I find out the reason that I think I believe say in God is that I sure hope that, somehow, God will rescue me. In other words, I want to hang on to my own existence. I feel rather shaky about doing that for myself, but I just hope there’s a god who’ll take care of it. Or if I could be loving, I would have a better opinion of myself. I’d feel better about it. “I could face myself,” as people say, “if I were more loving.”

So, the unloving me, somehow, by some gimmickry, has to turn itself into a loving me. And this is just like trying to lift yourself off the ground with your own bootstraps. It can’t be done!

And that’s why religion, in practice, mainly produces hypocrisy and guilt because of the constant failure of these enterprises.

People go and study Zen. They come back and say, “Wow! Getting rid of your ego is a superhuman task.” I assure you, it’s going to be very, very difficult to get rid of your ego. You’re going to have to sit for a long time and you’re going to get the sorest legs. It’s hard work! All you wretched kids who think you’re getting rid of your ego or something or another, easy yoga, you don’t know what you’re in for.

When it really comes down to the nitty-gritty, you know, the biggest ego trip going is getting rid of your ego.

And the joke of it all is our ego doesn’t exist! There’s nothing to get rid of. It’s an illusion as I tried to explain. But you still want to ask how to stop the illusion. Well, who’s asking?

In the ordinary sense in which you use the word I, how can I stop identifying myself with the wrong me? But the answer is simply you can’t.

Now, the Christians put this in their way when they say that mystical experience is a gift of divine grace. Man, as such, cannot achieve this experience. It is a gift of God. And if God doesn’t give it to you, there’s no way of getting it. Now, that is solidly true. You can’t do anything about it because you don’t exist.

Well, you say, “That’s pretty depressing news.” But the whole point is it isn’t depressing news. It is the joyous news. There’s a Zen poem which puts it like this. Talking about it, it means the mystical experience, Satori, the realization that you are the eternal energy of the universe like Jesus did. It like this:

“You cannot catch hold of it, nor can you get rid of it. In not being able to get it, you get it! When you speak, it’s silent. When you’re silent, it speaks.”

Now, in not being able to get it, you get it, because this whole feeling, what Krishnamurti is trying to explain to people, for example, when he says, “Why do you ask for a method? There is no method. All methods are simply gimmicks for strengthening your ego.”

So, how do we not do that? He says, “You’re still asking for a method.” There is no method. If you really understand what your I is, you will see there is no method.

Is it just so sad? But it’s not. This is the gospel, the good news, because if you cannot achieve it, if you cannot transform yourself, that means that the main obstacle to mystical vision has collapsed. That was you.

What happens? You can’t do anything about it. You’re at your wit’s end. What would you do? Commit suicide. But supposing you just put that off for a little while, wait and see what happens.

You can’t control your thoughts, you can’t control your feelings because there is no controller. You are your thoughts and your feelings. They’re running along, running along, running along. Just sit and watch them. There they go!

You’re still breathing, aren’t you? Still growing your hair? Still seeing and hearing? Are you doing that? I mean is breathing something that you do? Do you see, I mean do you organize the operations of your eyes? You know exactly how to work those rods and cones in the retina? Do you do that? It’s a happening. It happens.

So, you couldn’t feel all this happening. Your breathing is happening. Your thinking is happening. Your feeling is happening—your hearing, your seeing. The clouds are happening across the sky. The sky is happening blue. The Sun is happening shining.

There it is, all that’s happening. And may I introduce to you… this is yourself.

This begins to be a vision of who you really are. And that’s the way you function. You function by happening, that is to say, by spontaneous occurrence.

And this is not a state of affairs that you should realize. I cannot possibly preach it to you because the minute you start thinking, “I should understand that,” this is the stupid notion again of “should bring it about” when there is no you to bring it about. So that’s why I’m not preaching. You can only preach to egos. All I can do is to talk about what is. It amuses me to talk about what is because it’s wonderful. I love it. And therefore, I like to talk. If I get paid for it, then I make my living. And sensible people get paid for doing what they enjoy doing.

So, you see, the whole approach here is not to convert you, not to improve you, but for you to discover that if you really knew the way you are, things would be sane. But you see, you can’t do that. You can’t make that discovery because you’re in your own way, so long as you think “I’m I,” so long as that hallucination blocks it.

And the hallucination disappears only in the realization of its own futility, when at last you see you can’t do it. You cannot make yourself over. You cannot really control your own mind.

See, when we try to control the mind, a lot of yoga teachers try to get you to control your own mind mainly to prove to you that you can’t do it. There’s nothing, you know, a fool who persists in his folly will become wise. So what they do is they speed up the folly.

And so, you get concentrating. And you can have a certain amount of superficial and initial success by a process commonly called self-hypnosis. You can think you’re making progress, and a good teacher will let you go along that way for a while until he really throws you with one. Why are you concentrating?

See, Buddhism works this way. The Buddha said, “If you suffer, you suffer because you desire, and your desires are either unattainable. You’re always being disappointed or something. So cut out desire.” So, those disciples went away, and they stamped on desire, jumped on desire, cut the throat of desire, and threw out desire. But then they came back and Buddha said, “But you are still desiring not to desire.” Now they want to know how to get rid of that.

So when you see that that’s nonsense, there naturally comes over you a quietness. And seeing that you cannot control your mind, you realize there is no controller. What you took to be the thinker of thoughts is just one of the thoughts. What you took to be the feeler of the feelings, which was that chronic muscular strain, was just one of the feelings. What you took to be the experience of experience is just by the experience.

So, there isn’t any thinker of thoughts, feeler of feelings. We get into that bind because we have a grammatical rule that verbs have to have subjects. And the funny thing about that is that verbs are processes and subjects are nouns which is supposed to be things. How does a noun start a verb? How does a thing put a process into action? Obviously, it can’t.

But we always insist that there is this subject called the “knower.” And without a knower, there can’t be knowing. Well, that’s just a grammatical rule. It isn’t a rule of nature. In nature, there’s just knowing like you’re feeling it.

I have to say you are feeling it as if you were somehow different from the feeling. When I say, “I am feeling,” what I mean is there is feeling here. When I say you are feeling, I mean there is feeling there. I have to say even “there is feeling.” What a cumbersome language we have. Chinese is easier. You don’t have to put all that in. And you say things twice as fast in Chinese as you can in any other language.

Well, anyway, when you come to see that you can do nothing, that the play of thought, of feeling, et cetera, just goes on by itself as a happening, then you are in a state which we will call meditation. And slowly, without being pushed, your thoughts will come to silence—that is to say all the verbal symbolic chatter going on in the skull.

Don’t try and get rid of it because that will again produce the illusion that there’s a controller. It goes on, it goes on, it goes on. Finally, it gets tired of itself and bored and stops. And so then there’s a silence. And this is a deeper level of meditation.

And in that silence, you suddenly begin to see the world as it is. You don’t see any past. You don’t see any future. You don’t see any difference between yourself and the rest of it. That’s just an idea. You can’t put your hand on the difference between myself and you. You can’t blow it. You can’t bounce it. You can’t pull it. It’s just an idea. You can’t find any material body because material body is an idea; so is spiritual body. This is somebody’s philosophical notions.

So, reality isn’t material. That’s an idea. Reality isn’t spiritual. That’s an idea. Reality is {claps}.

So, we find, if I’ve got to put it back into words, that we live in an eternal now. You’ve got all the time in the world because you’ve got all the time there is which is now.

And you are this universe. You feel the strange feeling when—ideas don’t define the differences. You feel that other people’s doings are your doings. And that makes it very difficult to blame other people. If you’re not sophisticated theologically, you may of course run screaming in the streets and say that you’re God.

In a way, that’s what happened to Jesus because he wasn’t sophisticated theologically. He only had Old Testament biblical theology behind him. If he’d had Hindu theology, he could have put it more subtly. But it was only that rather primitive theology of the Old Testament. And that was a conception of God as a monarchical boss. And you can’t go around and say, “I’m the boss’ son.” If you’re going to say, “I’m God,” you must allow it for everyone else too.

But this was a heretical idea from the point of view of Hebrew theology. So what they did with Jesus was they pedestalized him. That means “kicked him upstairs,” so that he wouldn’t be able to influence anyone else. And only you may be God. That stopped the gospel cold right at the beginning. It couldn’t spread.

Well, anyway, this is therefore to say that the transformation of human consciousness through meditation is frustrated. So long as we think of it in terms of something that I, myself, can bring about by some kind of wangle, by some sort of gimmick.

Because you see, that leads to endless games of spiritual one-upmanship and of guru competitions. “My guru is more effective than your guru. My yoga is faster than your yoga. I’m more aware of myself than you are. I’m humbler than you are. I’m sorrier for my sins than you are. I love you more than you love me.” There is interminable goings-on about which people fight and wonder whether they are a little bit more evolved than somebody else and so on. All that can just fall away.

And then, we get this strange feeling that we have never had in our lives except occasionally by accident. Some people get a glimpse that we are no longer this poor little stranger and afraid in the world it never made, but that you are this universe and you are creating it at every month.

Because, you see, it starts now. It didn’t begin in the past. There was no past. So if the universe began in the past, when that happened, it was now, see? But it’s still now.

And the universe is still beginning now and it’s trailing off like the wake of a ship from now. When the wake of the ship fades out, so does the past. You can look back there to explain things, but the explanation disappears. You’ll never find it there. Things are not explained by the past. They’re explained by what happens now that creates the past. It begins here.

That’s the birth of responsibility because, otherwise, you can always look over your shoulder and say, “Well, I’m the way I am because my mother dropped me. And she dropped me because she was neurotic because her mother dropped her” and away we go back to Adam and Eve or to a disappearing monkey or something. We’ll never get at it.

But in this way, you’re faced with… you’re doing all this. And that’s an extraordinary thought.

So, cheer up! You can’t blame anyone else for the kind of world you’re in. And if you know, you’ll see that I, in the sense of the person, the front, the ego, it really doesn’t exist, then it won’t go to your head too badly if you wake up and discover that you’re God.

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About Dr. Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your OwnOwn Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression. She is the founder of the online healing program Vital Mind Reset, and the membership community, Vital Life Project. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from M.I.T. in Systems Neuroscience. She is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. Learn More