Monday, February 3, 2020

Kindle edition of Awake and Alive now available


My book Awaken and Alive: Being Who You Already Are is now available in Kindle/eBook format on my Amazon book page: 

I have also added an author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/michaelhallphd.


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Question from a reader of my book

Here is a question I received today about my book, Awake and Alive: Being What You Already Are, and my (somewhat long) answer.

Hello Dr. Hall!
"I have a question. I finally started reading your book. I have a hard time understanding the "Cave of Nonduality" on page 14."

Thanks for asking. If there are parts of the book you don't understand, I guarantee there will be many others who also don't understand!
Speaking from my own experience and that of others I have known, it takes enormous effort to awaken in a deep and abiding manner. It is likely you will not realize how hard you have been struggling until it all ends. For me this cessation of struggle happened in September 2002. The metaphor that occurred to me is that I felt like a hairball that was finally spit up by a cat! The other metaphor is from the story of Jonah, who struggled fiercely in the belly of the whale for three days. Finally, he was involuntarily 'ejected', landing naked and shivering on the beach. All we can do is struggle when it is time to struggle, and gratefully accept release when that is offered. Everything happens by the grace of God. When Jonah landed on the beach, he was exhausted but totally free, now a stranger in a strange land. Our intrepid spiritual warrior, who has successfully endured the prolonged dark night of St. John of the Cross must now recover from his heroic struggle, and some perhaps extended period of rest and recovery is needed, even required.

The next spiritual challenge is to genuinely rest, but not become attached to the exquisite peace and stillness now experienced. This period of rest I termed the Cave of Nonduality. The second major challenge is to engage once again with the ordinary world where most are actively suffering and in no way at peace or free from anything. In doing so, new challenges will inevitably and quickly emerge. These new challenges are the unresolved programs and wounds that were not exposed or released during the dark night. They are only revealed after the more obvious blind spots have been resolved. Much is healed and released during the struggle of the dark night. Far more programs and scars vaporize instantaneously during the spontaneous death of the old being and rebirth as a new one. To meet these new challenges head on, it is necessary to leave the peace and contentment of the cave of nonduality. This is the only way for the full embodiment of the deep realizations of awakening to fully materialize.

Below is a blog post I wrote about this issue in 2013.



Attachment to Emptiness

“This Sense World too is Enlightenment”    
Hakuin Zenji’s Chant in Praise of Zazen

In his 4/10/2013 webcast, Adyashanti addresses in a beautiful, clear, and direct manner the allure of emptiness and the need to move through this stage of enlightenment. Adyashanti speaks of the attachment to emptiness. The spiritual path is limitless, and every single step along the way has potential pitfalls. These difficulties arise in the form of attachments or aversions. I have spoken of the attachment to emptiness as dwelling in the cave of nonduality. Once the silence and peace of this absolute emptiness is experienced, it can be enticing, particularly to those who have experienced enormous suffering and trauma in this life.

In emptiness there is no separation and hence no suffering. If the goal is the end of suffering, then emptiness is your ticket. Without the sense of self-identity, there can be no suffering as there is no separation. No separation means there is no comparison of what is with what isn’t. Without this comparing process, nothing is seen as lacking. There is neither joy nor the absence of joy. There is no passion, no desire, no fear, no pain of loss, no excitement, and no despair. Obviously, meaningful relationships of all kinds are avoided or diminished, as relationships have typically been a source of suffering. The same can be said for all other forms of engagement in the world. Responsibility is avoided like the plague.

The internal experience of emptiness is of a quiet contentment. People who have arrived at this deep, internally focused peacefulness appear emotionally flat to those not in the cave. There is often very little externally focused activity of any kind. Very little productive work is accomplished. Effort of all kinds is strenuously avoided as a sign of ego-based striving. A telltale sign of the depth of attachment to this stillness and emotional numbing is the ferocious response that occurs when an attempt is made to arouse them from their slumbers. The cave of nonduality is a deeply restful way station for the weary spiritual traveler and abiding there a while is understandable and beneficial. The problem is mistaking a stage of the journey for the end of the journey.

After a deep spiritual realization, it is normal, even predictable to land hard in the cave of nonduality. Many years can pass quietly as the seeker rests, mistakenly assuming that the journey has ended. From my observations and experiences, it is almost impossible for the person (who no longer believes themselves to be a person in the usual sense) to recognize how stuck they are without some external assistance. This is where a trusted teacher who has successfully exited the cave and engaged with the messy, unpredictable ordinary world is not only invaluable, but usually absolutely necessary. The discontent that drove the seeker to pursue self-realization with the passion required to awaken to an aspect of their true nature has ceased. Extinction is the nature of nonduality. There is no internal dissatisfaction left to motivate movement and action. What then is the motivation to leave the cave and reengage with the world of suffering and chaos, of desire and lack?

The only motivation I can find is a deep sense of compassion born of the experiential realization of both unity and separateness. Although my personal suffering may have ended in the cave of emptiness, a quick peek outside reveals an entire world of hurt. The instant that we wade into this morass of suffering, previously hidden attachments and aversions are activated and available for attention and release. As long as we stay safely within the cave, we can fool our self into thinking that we are ‘done’. As long as meaningful engagement with life and real responsibility are carefully avoided, we can maintain our carefully cultivated inner state of peace and contentment. The avoidance of engagement becomes the spiritually rationalized default setting. How can engagement with the messy world be a good idea when it activates so many unresolved conflicts? This can be an especially delicate time for the spiritual aspirant who, having finally found peace, is asked to surrender it.

Many are called, but few are chosen. If there is a willingness and access to accurate teaching, the rested seeker may gather up their few remaining possessions and begin the longest and most arduous portion of the path. The ordinary world of duality is engaged, but now it is intuitively understood from the aspect of emptiness, making all experience radically different. One of the last and most difficult attachments that must be released is the attachment to emptiness. The full engagement with ordinary life that is ultimately realized is beautifully depicted in the tenth ox-herding picture, where our fully liberated sage is completely at home in the world, demonstrating absolute freedom embodied as an individual and unique human being. 

Attachment to Emptiness was originally published in a slightly modified form on 4/17/2013 on my blog: https://awakentotruth.blogspot.com/.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Silence

In this talk I discuss a beautiful post by a Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr on the cac.org website: https://cac.org/naturally-indwelling-2020-01-10/. The title is Naturally Indwelling, and is adapted from an article by Father Rohr: Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation (Franciscan Media: 2014), 46-47. Some related questions: What does inner silence feel like? What does it accomplish? How do we find silence in our busy, outwardly directed lives? Think of the purpose or goal of silence to be nothing more than absolute rest-resting in the arms of God. Going nowhere, doing nothing, becoming nothing, expecting nothing. Simply resting in this, exactly as it is. Letting go and letting God be in charge for a while. What could be better? The talk can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/videos/1074493026236510/

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Satsang this coming Sunday, January 5, 2020.

January 5 we will meet at my office at 2 for 15 minutes of silent meditation followed by a talk/discussion related to my book Awake and Alive. If you have read all or part of the book, this will be an excellent opportunity to raise questions, provide feedback, etc. I intend to stream this talk live on my public person Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/

I will be doing a talk on the Heart Sutra Wednesday, January 8 at the Binghamton Buddhist Meditation Group, which meets at the First Congregational Church, 30 Main St, Binghamton, NY 13905. The group begins at 6:30 pm. https://www.meetup.com/binghamton-buddhist-meditation/events/wpbscrybccbcb/.

Most likely I will do another talk in my office on January 12. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

What is the Self-Identity?

Here is a link to my live stream on Facebook Saturday, December 14: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/videos/2474574132816944/.

This video explores the question: What is the Self-Identity? We are taught to believe that we exist as a separate self-identity. I explore this idea in depth in my new book: Awake and Alive: Being Who You Already Are. Spiritual growth results from beginning to observe the functioning of this presumed identity, and questioning its underlying reality.

Books mentioned in the talk:
Pennebaker, J.W., and Evans
, J. F. Expressive Writing: Words that Heal. (2014). Ann Arbor: Idyll Arbor.


Niebaur, C. The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment: How the Left-Brain Plays Unending Games of Self-Improvement. (2014). Denver: Outskirts. 


Nisargadatta Maharaj (Author), Dunn, J.,  (Editor). Prior to Consciousness: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj 2nd Edition. (1990). Lancaster, PA.: Acorn.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Live stream talks today and next Saturday

This Sunday, December 8 at 2 we will have a Satsang/teaching with discussion. This talk will be streamed live here beginning at 2:15 today, Sunday, December 8. The following Saturday, December 14 I will be available in my office from 2 until 2:30 to sign copies of my book: Awake and Alive: Being Who You Already Are. As many of you know, this book gestated for over ten years, so I am very happy to finally bring it to completion.
After the informal book signing December 14 I will do a talk from 2:30 until 3:45 about the book and respond to questions or comments. This talk will be streamed live here beginning at 2:45 Saturday December 14.
I will also have copies of my book for sale to those of you who have not purchased it on Amazon. The price is $14.95 plus New York sales tax, cash or check. It is self-published so at this point it will not be available in bookstores-only online through Amazon or from me directly. The Kindle version is in process and may take another week or more before it is available.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

My book is now available on Amazon.

Here is a link to my book which is now available on Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/…/…/ref=ppx_od_dt_b_asin_title_s00…. It can also be ordered from Amazon sites in Germany, France, and the UK. I will describe the book and my purpose in writing it in later posts, both here and on my Facebook page dedicated to teaching: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Live satsang on The Roots of Suffering today on my Facebook page

At 2:15 Eastern time today, Sunday, October 6 I will live stream a satsang at my public person Facebook page here:https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/videos/553781248712000/. Immediately after the talk, the video should be available.


Two weeks ago we looked at the nature and the alleviation of suffering. We will continue to explore this topic today. I hope to have the first talk available in the near future.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

No Thinking about Thinking


          https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/videos/1363603673764104/

The above link is to my Facebook page, where you can find a video of this talk  No Thinking About Thinking given Sunday, June 23, 2019. 

No thinking about thinking

Two weeks ago, when we considered the work of John Butler, I mentioned John’s observation that the primary obstacle to awakening is the lack of suffering. John may well be right. However, I have another nomination for greatest obstacle. While suffering is often the prime motivator to commence a serious spiritual search, the primary obstacle to awakening is our passionate love affair with our thoughts. It is mostly not possible or necessary to stop thinking altogether, although if that happens, you will be truly blessed. For the past 15 years I have encouraged people to lose interest in their thoughts. By thoughts I include opinions, beliefs, assumptions, and convictions; in general, all that we hold to be true.
In today’s talk, we will discuss the experience of living in the ordinary world without noticing, caring about, or taking seriously your thoughts. What would this feel like? How would it affect the choices and decisions we make? Is it even possible to live in this way?
Why are thoughts such a big problem, anyway? Ed Muzica recently quoted his teacher Robert Adams: “Robert used to say to me, ‘I have no idea why it is taking you so long (to reach enlightenment), except that you are too smart. You are always thinking, thinking, thinking, and you can't escape, it has become your nature.’” https://www.facebook.com/edwardmuzika 
Can we look at our thoughts as being like clouds, just drifting by, going nowhere, doing nothing, certainly not mine? Just thoughts, or clouds, or nothing at all, really. How would this view, lived out fully, affect our direct experience of the world?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

John Butler talk June 2


Sunday, June 2 we will meet at my office in Binghamton at 2 pm for 15 minutes of silent meditation followed by a discussion of the spiritual teachings of Christian mystic John Butler. 
John's story is interesting and unusual in some ways, yet also very familiar. ​We will look at his unique teaching style as demonstrated in these videos, and his current meditative practice of the Jesus Prayer, as taught in the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition. Here is a description of John from his book publisher: "Growing from a country childhood, John’s natural mysticism developed into organic farming and meditation. Much later, when life fell apart, it took him through depression and years of wandering in deserts of different sorts before gradually coming to realize that all appearing to be lost on earth is spiritually found." 

Here are links to several YouTube videos of John in action, being himself:


The Lanzarote Tapes-#4 The 'couldn't care less' attitude towards thoughtshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYnj70LWzxA 


Friday, May 17, 2019

Holy Spirit

Sunday, May 19 we will meet at my office in Binghamton at 2 pm for 15 minutes of silent meditation followed by a discussion of the Holy Spirit. What is the source of the guidance that I describe that is so important for us to accurately discern? In this talk and discussion, we will include consideration of many references to the Spirit in the Bible and attempt to understand the meaning of this term. From my perspective, the Spirit mentioned repeatedly in the Bible is compatible with the meaning behind the Zen term nomind. Similar terms, which I use interchangeably, are Buddha mind, Mind, the mind of Christ, etc. It is this Spirit that Bankei referred to with his wonderful word Unborn. This Spirit is our True Self in action. It is who we are and can’t not be. It is us before our parents were born. We are never separate from It. The Spirit is continuously revealing itself and all of creation. How can we learn to see what is always right here, right now, not only directly in front of us, but in and through us? It is our very Self. This talk will be streamed live on my public person Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/Here is a link to the talk: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/videos/626309751114771/

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Discernment and Surrender April 28, 2019


Sunday April 28 I will give this talk in my office at 2 pm Eastern time on one my favorite topics. I gave a version of this talk several years ago to my local teaching and discussion group, and again two weeks ago as part of the Lenten series at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Endicott, NY. This talk will be streamed live on Facebook.
Here is a link to the talk: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/

What can we do to assist the process of discerning God’s will?

Ask for guidance. Do not assume that you know the right answer. It is essential to ask with absolute humility and openness to being shown the way. Willingness is essential. This willingness to be shown and to follow through with action is the meaning of surrender. It is possible to recognize the need for an action that is not appealing or even goes against our own best judgement. Even if we receive guidance but do not wish to follow, waiting is usually OK. When a particular action is ‘suggested’ repeatedly, it is probably wise to follow it. This process does not negate the thinking mind or undercut the role of reason, critical judgement or thinking in the usual sense. However, if we are not willing, we will not be able to see what is being revealed. Willingness benefits from a comfort and even eagerness to dwell in ‘not knowing’. Not knowing is your friend. The mind that knows is closed. Adopt the perspective of not knowing. Learn to be OK with uncertainty. It is a myth that we should know what we are doing all the time. Only those who are closed can always know or believe they know the truth. A closed mind knows programming and belief, not revealed truth. We are looking for revealed truth. Programming and belief are already known and very limited in its power and effectiveness in the world. Therefore, we must remain open and frequently dwell in a kind of uncertainty. Learning to tolerate this Cloud of Unknowing is a large part of the spiritual path. We are always searching for the revelation of the Will of God. This searching must be accomplished without fear, doubt or anxiety. It is more like a watchful waiting. There is no effort to force an outcome. This waiting is actively passive. It is neither active nor passive. It is open, curious, receptive.

When in doubt, it is often good judgement to wait. Wait in the not knowing. Expect to know but recognize and accept when you don’t know. Try to be content with not knowing. When the time is right and there is a need, what is next will be revealed.

How can we discern the difference between what my conditioned mind wants and what God wants? It is not always easy or clear. There are certainly no rules. To recognize it requires trust, intuition and surrender. Usually, however, God’s will is not very subtle or hard to recognize. It tends to be insistent. You will notice yourself repeatedly revisiting an idea or plan of action. If something repeatedly occurs to me without obvious external or internal prompting, it is a safe bet I am being guided. Once you recognize the guidance, try to relax and carry through with it to the best of your ability. Avoid doubt or any other kind of worry or rumination as much as possible. Worry is merely your thinking mind doing what it does best. It is not helpful and is just a bad habit. Observe the worry and then try to lose interest in it and ignore it.

The indicated action is revealed as a ‘next’. Try to stay present and attuned, always open to further guidance. Recognizing and carrying out guidance skillfully requires understanding and practice. These skills will develop over time, as with anything else. Remember experiences where you felt guided in the past and review the outcomes. Usually you will see that things went well, often much better than you could have ever imagined. While the indicated action might engender fear to the self-identity beforehand, there is often a feeling of relief and ‘rightness’ afterwards. Try to maintain awareness of this entire process. We all have this ability inherent in us as human beings, although some appear to be naturally more at ease with the required letting go of perceived control.

Eventually this other way of knowing becomes second nature and is mostly effortless. Interruptions in the flow of awareness come as conditioned beliefs and habits are triggered. This eruption of conditioning and fear is not a problem. Rather, it is an opportunity to become more aware of unconscious programming and release it. In other words, it is an opportunity to become more free and clear. Everything that appears to be a problem will yield to a calm and present awareness.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Infinite Benevolence of Life


Sunday July 29 we will meet at my office to discuss the idea of being perfectly protected and sheltered by life. Life is infinitely benevolent and kind. This idea may sound bizarre, yet clear seeing of what is reveals it to be true. Life can also seem cruel and painful, with many difficult experiences. Let’s question this notion of infinite benevolence together. Here is a quotation from the recently deceased Japanese Zen Master Tangen Roshi: "You too are perfectly protected. It just isn’t obvious to you. You are receiving all the care, protection and guidance and love of all the universe. You just haven’t been able to see it yet, but you will." https://buddhismnow.com/2018/03/23/the-depth-of-truth-is-bottomless-by-harada-tangen-roshi/.

Tangen Roshi's story is remarkable, to say the least. He is particularly interesting to me because he was a pivotal influence and support for my teacher, Roshi Philip Kapleau when Kapleau was a new Zen student, trying to survive at the incredibly demanding monastery Hosshin-ji of Zen Buddhist teacher Harada Sogaku Roshi: https://androniki.photoshelter.com/gallery/LIVING-ZEN-Hoshinji-Zen-monastery-in-Obama-city-of-wester-Japan-tight-selection/G00006m0MVbOGA1o.

They became lifelong friends. Tangen died in March of this year. The article below is a teisho, or talk from no mind, given by Tangen in 2000. 

We generally believe without question that we are in charge of our life. While it may be useful, even necessary to act as if we are in charge, so many events intrude to challenge this belief. Normally, we ignore as much as possible these events since they challenge the core of our identity, sense of safety and world view. All deep spiritual practice eventually requires the radical questioning of every notion of self-control we have developed. To progress on the spiritual path, it is necessary to look deeply into the question: Who is really in charge here? In the June 24th talk on Ramana Maharshi and the koan Who Am I?, we discussed the importance of deconstructing the notion of a permanent, enduring, fixed self-identity. To put it bluntly, if 'I' am not real in the way I once thought, then who or what could possibly be in control of my life? This is a real question. What is your answer?

In this talk, we will consider Tangen Roshi's experiences and his observations about the meaning and purpose of life. On three occasions, he faced certain death, and yet escaped largely unscathed. Were these 'escapes' simply random, blind luck? What can we learn from this celebrated Zen Master? 

Here is another article from the online journal Buddhism now: https://buddhismnow.com/2018/03/20/harada-tangen-roshi-1924-2018/

If you would like to attend, please RSVP as space is very limited.