The Four Ultimate Concerns

Regarding Yalom’s Four Ultimate (Human) Concerns [1]:

  1. Death
  2. Isolation
  3. Meaninglessness
  4. Loss of Freedom

These concerns are fundamental to human existence and thus have been the impetus for spiritual quests throughout the ages. Adopting a worldview that encompasses a spiritual perspective on life can assuage these concerns. However, when one has a direct experience of the spiritual essence of human existence these concerns lose their potency entirely. By “spiritual essence” I mean that part of a person that is not tied to the body or mind and does not enter into the flow of time. Moreover, this essence is inseparable from everything else, unlike the physical self. These are not mere religions or philosophical assertions. Rather, they are life-transforming realizations that can compel an individual to see that:

  1. Death of the body is not the end your Being
  2. All beings are connected to all of existence
  3. Love and beauty are the underlying essence of everything, providing the ultimate meaning to life
  4. A person can be entrapped mentally and physically, but their spiritual essence is by nature free.

In no way am I saying that the four concerns are immaterial or unimportant. They are in fact the grist for personal development, which is why we have this human existence. But, in my view, an even more compelling purpose of our existence on Earth is to fully awaken in our human form to our underlying spiritual essence.

[1] Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books

Dialog on Gender Differences wrt concept of “Freedom”

Dialog with a dear Friend…

SiriJodha Khalsa: Thanks for telling me about AH Almaas. Today I listened to an interview with him and really enjoyed it. It expressed so clearly many of my views and experiences, as well as adding new perspectives such as consciousness constantly experimenting with ways to reveal itself.

SiriJodha Khalsa: Then, just now, the thought occurred to – all the teachers who speak a wisdom that resonates with me (Ekhart, Mooji, AH) are similar in certain ways – they are highly intelligent and articulate but speak in a very straightforward, no nonsense manner. The main thing, however, that hit me was – they are ALL MALE. Why? Is the experience of awakening as described by these people unique to males, or at least the way it is experienced and expressed? Do females who have such an awakening manifest this in different ways and don’t feel as compelled to broadcast it by becoming teachers?

SiriJodha Khalsa: My curiosity is not so much about why there aren’t more female spiritual teachers, but rather whether there is a fundamental difference in the way men and women approach spirituality. The notion of conquering the ego, getting out of one’s head, developing the ability to dwell in thoughtlessness, ending suffering by obtaining freedom from attachments – are these predominantly male concerns? How does a fully actualized female differ from a fully actualized male? Is gender irrelevant? Or is female spirituality fundamentally different in some ways?

SiriJodha Khalsa: Thinking back to the interview with AH, he was talking with the interviewer about being connected with him in the heart, but his words and expressions didn’t carry much of an emotional load. I can imagine the conversation with a female interviewer might have had different feeling to it.

SiriJodha Khalsa: You see, I get accused by my wife and daughter of being too detached. This comes up when they are suffering an emotional crisis and while I sympathize, I distance myself emotionally, I don’t get wrapped up in the drama and therefore appear emotionally unavailable and unsupportive.

SiriJodha Khalsa: One could do a survey of the self-help literature and identify, probably just from the titles, distinct differences between male and female authors, the latter emphasizing transcendence and the latter emphasizing connectedness. This, of course, is a gross oversimplification, but perhaps points to a core issue regarding how men and women approach spirituality.

Suffering and Freedom

Both my father and my spouse’s father are experiencing significant degradations in their quality of life. What occurred to me is that we all share the same condition – we all are suffering from the same affliction: a blinding identification with the transitory aspects of being. Our human journey, by its nature, is a mix of pleasure and pain, with the measures of each determined by the purpose for which we came here. But the degree to which we suffer from the circumstances that life presents us with is determined by how much we feel that our body and mind constitute the totality of our being. Our ability to live in joy, in the face of other’s, and our own suffering, comes from recognizing that although we each go through unique events in life, we are in fact fundamentally having the same experience – that of being human facing the pain, limitations, fears and doubts that are inherent in occupying this physical form. In some sense we are all helpless in this regard, unable to free ourselves from the blindness that is at the root of our suffering.

We cannot know the purpose for someone else’s suffering, and it can take a long time for us to see the reasons for our own suffering. It’s my belief, and I’ll admit it’s a belief that all may not share, that every experience we have does indeed have a purpose, and thus life always has a purpose. It follows, again according to my reasoning, that the best use to which we can put this life is learning to (re-)connect our mind and body with that undying, universal, ultimate Truth that is at the core of our being. In one sense all else is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – we’re all going to experience suffering and we’re all going to die. We can focus on trying to optimize our circumstances to minimize suffering but invariably suffering will come and eventually we will experience the dissolution of the physical and loss of all that is familiar – all that we’ve surrounded ourselves with to make us feel secure. The best thing we can do, then, is take our pain, and our distress at seeing other’s pain, as a impetus to seek that perspective from which all is exactly as it should be.

While adopting such perspective philosophically can to some degree help us emotionally, what I’m talking about is not a mental attitude but a shift to where we directly experience of our infinite self – this, in my view, is the ultimate purpose of human life and what we should devote ourselves to on a daily basis. 

Diluting the thought stream

Awareness without thought is a truly transcendental state that is blissful to experience but difficult to achieve. To me, this condition is the goal of meditation. In the morning, after preparation and some moments of sitting, the flow of thoughts will momentarily cease, but often resumes as if there was a vacuum that had to be filled. I try to detach from these thoughts – let them just be part of the palate of things my higher self is experiencing. But thoughts can be insistent, commanding attention. Here’s what I wanted to share:  when you expand your awareness beyond the confines of your physical body (but still grounded in your body) your thoughts become diluted, dimmed, less insistent, allowing you to be with them, passively, while remaining in that state of pure awareness.

Oaxaca, Mexico – Dynamic, artsy, indigenous, and a culinary delight

After spending two weeks in Oaxaca (city and state), Jitka and I have come to love the place. Yes, it’s very tourist-oriented, but this means the city has invested in infrastructure and security. The colonial architecture is charming, the walking zone is a pleasure to stroll along, music and art abound and there are restaurants and cafes everywhere.