Transcript from a meeting with Jim Eaton on 19 September, 2020
Q: Deep sadness is passing through me at the moment. My mum died two months ago, and my dad is suffering from heart failure. All of this, and with Covid in the mix, I’ve never felt so disempowered in my life. How can we deal with trauma, and the fact that life involves death and suffering?
Plus, I have another question, regarding the rational, fear-based mind. The mind wants to think. That’s what it’s built to do. It’s what has helped us survive as a species. How do we separate from that when it’s so intrinsically and innately integrated and involved in everything we choose to do and say?
Jim: What do you notice as you meet that deep sadness that’s here now?
Q: It’s very heavy. There’s a lot of fear, and I’m feeling quite lost.
Jim: Yes. It must be a very painful and challenging time for you . . . just sensing the support of your feet on the floor, sitting bones on the chair, and the movement of your breath . . . and the invitation is to allow yourself to really feel that heavy sadness, that fear.
Q: I come from a bit of a ‘sciencey’ background. I think fear has been in my life from a teenager all the way through, and I think I’ve always managed to manage it. I think there’s quite a strong impulse in me to want to make sense of things. I feel like I need to hold on to rationality: what is our purpose? What’s the point? I need to understand. And I feel like, even more so now, I’ve lost that. Maybe I’ve never even had it in the first place, I don’t know, but now I’m feeling a bit hopeless.
Jim: Yeah, so that’s the gift that your mother has given you. When we live solely from the apparent certainty of the rational mind, we block ourselves off from appreciating the sacred wonder of being, of wholeness. So when something happens in our life that cracks that apparent certitude, it’s a gift—because it offers us the possibility of starting to realise what lies beyond the rational mind.
I really hear you. I studied mathematics at university, and part of the reason I was drawn to it was because of that sense of certitude. For me, whilst growing up, mathematics seemed like a solid rock of certainty within the chaotic sea of adolescence. That sense of certainty can be incredibly reassuring. But it’s a false certainty, a false reassurance. As soon as we take one step outside our area of expertise, our comfort zone, that sense of certainty just evaporates.
What scientists tend to forget is that what they are doing is modelling reality, in order to better understand and predict its behaviour; they’re not describing the way reality actually IS. And what seems to have happened over the last few hundred years, is that our modelling of the world has been so successful that we’ve forgotten that it’s a mind-made-up model of reality, a hypothesis, and we’ve mis-taken it for the literal ‘truth’.
One of my huge awakenings was realising that the rational mind is a model-making machine. It cannot know the deeper reality beyond its model-making. When we wake up to that, if we’ve been embedded solely within a rational mind perspective for our whole life, and we’ve invested in it hugely, and clung to it as our ‘rock’ of certainty, our reassurance, then that’s a truly shocking discovery—and it leaves you feeling lost and afraid, just as you say.
Why do we cling to our intellectual concepts and ideas, and try to understand everything mentally? To try to avoid having to face that underlying fear you mentioned, that’s been there all the way through your life.
What you’re being invited into now is to courageously turn towards that fear, to let go of trying to find your certainty in mental concepts and ideas, and go beyond the rational mind to discover the true reassurance, the true certainty, that cannot be known as an intellectual idea or philosophy, but only through being it.
Q: I try to practice a bit of mindfulness, and actually I’ve done a few session working with kids doing mindfulness, which I love doing. I think it’s really important to do, and I think it’s a doorway into making sense of what’s going on. I’m trying to research around it as much as I can: meditating, exploring ‘doing’ and ‘being’, and how you marry those two things up to ultimately get to a conclusion of how to live a full, purposeful life without fear.
For me personally I would love that: to be completely without fear; fear for myself, fear for my loved ones, fear for the world, the environment, everything. I feel like there’s a lot of it out there, and it’s quite hard to not get sucked in to worrying about what could go wrong. So, that’s my quest. I feel like I’m still finding my way through the ‘doing’, through the rational mind; and then also meeting this other realm of ‘being’ that we can tap into, and wondering how that can all be married together.
Jim: Yeah, mindfulness can be very useful. I know in the west it’s often used to help deal with stress and anxiety, or improve mental concentration and so on, which is all good; but its original purpose was as a tool for exploring reality, that ultimately leads to going beyond the rational mind and directly experiencing our essential nature.
You’re a scientist, right? You said you have a scientific background. Well, from the common, everyday perspective, you are a person who’s looking at a computer screen in front of you, right? What could be more obvious? But for that to make sense, who you really are must be some kind of entity inside your head, and your eyes are like windows through which ‘you’ are looking and directly seeing the screen out there in front of you.
That’s not what science is saying. Our science textbooks are telling us that our nervous system, via our sense organs—our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin—is absorbing information from the environment, which then gets sent to our brain, and that our brain is this magical place where this entire virtual-reality-experience (Jim looks around and gestures to the space) is being spontaneously generated.
So, according to science, what we’re all experiencing right now is a re-presentation of reality; and what reality actually is, is something we can never know directly, because all we can ever access is this virtual-reality-experience.
There’s this great quote from Einstein, where he talks about how trying to understand reality is like trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. You can see the face, and the hands moving, and even hear the ticking—that’s the virtual-reality-experience—but you can never open the case to see how it all works.
Whatever ‘mechanism’ you think up, to try to explain what causes this virtual-reality, it will always be an educated guess; because you can never compare your explanation with the actual, ‘hidden’ reality—with what’s ‘inside the watch’.
Ok. So, what you’re experiencing right now is a spontaneously arising virtual-reality. And I’m not just talking about your computer screen, right? Your hands, your voice, the sense of your breathing, the tingling sensations in your face, the memory of breakfast this morning, all of it is a spontaneously arising virtual-reality.
This isn’t woo-woo new-age-spirituality here. This is hard science!
So, just as Einstein made clear with his watch analogy, whatever theory we come up with, we can never know actual reality using the rational mind. But, what if we go solely on our direct experience?
Then there is simply this spontaneously arising virtual-reality. To talk about there being or not being some other, hidden reality, that this virtual-reality supposedly re-presents, is to go into mental concepts and ideas. If we stay with our direct experience alone, then this virtual-reality IS actual reality.
This brings up a fascinating question: if ‘your’ hand, and ‘your’ body, and ‘your’ voice, and even ‘your’ thoughts, are all spontaneously appearing as part of this virtual-reality-experience, then what is the ‘real you’ that is aware of them?!
You may start to realise: my real nature is not inside a body, is not any one part of the experience; it’s as if I am this ‘aware no-thing’.
And then you can take it one step further . . . we can’t point to this ‘aware no-thing’ that we are. It has no particular location. It simply IS. So where is the gap between this ‘aware no-thing’ and this spontaneously arising virtual-reality? Where will you place your tape measure to begin measuring?
And we can’t point to where this ‘aware no-thing’ ends and this virtual-reality begins. So where is the boundary between them?
It’s as if they collapse together, and we realise that the ‘aware no-thing’ that we truly are is being all of it.
That’s what mindfulness is really trying to zone in on. That’s experiential realization. It’s really mind blowing.
Jim: And you asked about how the rational mind can marry together with that realisation.
Before we make that incredible discovery, the rational mind imagines itself to be the master, and tries to understand and control everything around it. After we make that discovery, the rational mind becomes a servant, a powerful tool that can be used to help enrich our experience. The ‘doing’ can then flow naturally from ‘being’, rather than from the fear-based patterns we’ve taken on.
We can even use the rational mind to formulate a new model of reality, that is more in line with our direct experience, and offers a renewed sense of meaning and purpose:
There is one cosmic, or infinite Mind—call it God’s Mind if you’re religious—and that one Mind is able to contract itself down and experience its own contents from a point of view within itself. So right now, what you are is a contraction of the one Mind, experiencing its contents, which appears as the world around you, from a point of view within itself.
It’s a bit like having a dream at night. You dream up a world, and contract yourself down to being a dream character within that world, from whose perspective you then experience the dream world around you.
We don’t lose anything with this new model of reality. All the powerful discoveries of science can still be included—as ways of describing how the one Mind seems to unfold.
And we gain a whole new sense of meaning and purpose too. If we look at the 13.6 billion year history of the universe, then for the first 10 billion years or so we had stars, planets and galaxies forming, but no life. Then, with the emergence of lifeforms, we have these points of view appearing, through which the one Mind was able to start to experience itself.
Over the subsequent 3.6 billion years since life first emerged, we see this ever increasing complexity or organisms, offering the one Mind an ever richer experience of its own ever richer content. Until we get to around 200,000 years ago, and the appearance of the self-aware human being.
With the modern human being, we not only have this rich, multi-sensual experience of the contents of the one Mind, but we also are aware that we are having the experience—we are aware that we are aware. So now, through us, the one Mind is not only able to experience its evolving contents, but is aware of having the experience.
Through the self-reflective human being, the one Mind now has the chance to recognise itself again directly. Currently however, it is falsely identifying itself with being exclusively the human being, which gives rise to much of the suffering we experience—as we imagine we are separate and limited, and so we fear being rejected and abandoned. The work we are doing here is about dis-identifying from that mis-taken identity, and rediscovering our true identity as the one Mind.
So, you could see the whole of reality as a process by which the one Mind conceives of, and gives birth to the universe, or universes. But in doing so it ‘falls asleep’ to itself, just like in our dream analogy. Then, through the process of evolution, it starts to wake up to itself again. In the dream analogy that would be like waking up within the dream, or lucid dreaming. Maybe we could call it ‘lucid living’.
That ‘macrocosmic’ process is taking place through the same ‘microcosmic’ process that is going on in each of us. Through exploring and evolving, we are waking up to who we really are, and that enables the one Mind to wake up to itself through us.
From this perspective, your life is not meaningless and insignificant, no! You’re an absolutely essential player in this incredible drama that’s unfolding. If you’re looking for a sense of meaning and purpose in your life, then that’s a pretty cool one.
Q: Yeah, that’s pretty good!
Jim: Just by existing you’re already fulfilling your purpose. You belong.
Q: I guess I’ve got to try and shake this seeking for something. That’s what I feel like I’ve had a lot of my life, whether it’s seeking even spirituality. We’re seeking this place of fulfilment, or enlightenment, and that seeking can be in lots of different forms can’t it? Seeking a career, seeking a bigger house. I feel like there’s a general feeling of everyone’s seeking for something more. But it would actually be quite good to not have that feeling: to actually just be fulfilled, that’s it, full stop.
Jim: I hear you. I call that the no-win cycle, because whatever we achieve, whatever we acquire, although it may temporarily satisfy us, sooner or later, like you say, we feel unsatisfied again and we’re off seeking the next thing. So, you could look at that and wonder: what is it that we’re really seeking?
I would say what we’re really seeking is everything! Is wholeness! That’s why whatever we get, it’s never enough; because what we truly are is everything, and so the end of that seeking can only come when you realize that you’re everything. Not you personally of course. ‘Jim’ isn’t being everything! But You, this Presence, this Beingness, the one Mind, is being everything. That’s your essential nature.
But the experiential realisation of that is not the end of the story, no. Life goes on. And you find that as you gently unravel more and more of the old patterns and beliefs that are constraining and distorting the way you’re acting in the world, then you, the individual person, start to express ever more fully, freely and authentically. It’s like you become a representative, an advocate, a servant of wholeness, of the one Mind—so ‘it’ can act, as ‘you’, or through ‘you’, within its own contents. That’s what possible. That’s what I call ‘authentic living’.
Then there’s no personal will anymore. ‘Your’ will becomes aligned with ‘The Will’, moment by moment. That’s what’s possible. Then every one and everything is seen as an invitation to go deeper into that possibility: this meeting now, the people that are here, the feelings that are being stirred up, your life situation, all the people you meet—every single moment is tailor-made to invite that deepening, and that growth, and that possibility.
Q: I do truly believe that. I mean, mum only passed a couple of months ago. She got cancer, and I cared for her for about six weeks, and it was all pretty full-on. But I definitely had a feeling, and I still do, even though I’m grieving and I’m missing her and it’s wobbled me a lot, but I probably do sense on a deeper level that it’s probably a gift. I do feel like this is probably meant to be happening right now in my life, and in my sisters’ lives; and I think it will unfold, and I think it probably will be a positive thing for all of us eventually. But I guess any change or any kind of transformation is going to be a bit painful isn’t it.
Jim: You asked about how to deal with trauma, death and suffering. Part of us wants to get away from fear and grief and sadness and loss, and that’s totally understandable; but the way to truly deal with it is by opening to it. What that does is it deepens us, it opens our heart, it softens our know-it-all arrogance and makes us humble—it widens our spectrum of experience. That’s how loss is a gift.
When we can meet it, grief is a doorway into heart-opening love and tenderness; fear is a portal into courage and strength. If we try and shut out these ‘unwanted’ aspects of life, then we shut out that loving kindness and tenderness too; we shut out courage, strength, aliveness and passion. We can’t have one without the other,
You can’t selectively numb your feelings. If you numb out the ‘painful’ ones, then you numb out all of the other feelings too, and you end up living in this very small, restricted bandwidth of experience. It’s a kind of nihilistic emptiness: “Life’s boring. What’s the point.” We’re just so numb that we’ve shut out all of life.
So the invitation is to go beyond the rational mind and to experientially discover who you really really are—the true ground of being; which then offers the ultimate capacity, the ultimate support, with which to open to the fullness of life, to everything that life offers up. It’s a huge adventure: the greatest adventure of all.
Q: Powerful stuff. Thank you very much Jim.
Jim: My pleasure. Lovely to meet you. Wow, I think that’s about the most I’ve talked in an exchange EVER! Thank you for bringing it all out!