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A Book That Will Force Enlightenment Upon You (In A Good Way)

You’ve probably thought about being one of them Buddha-types at least once in your life, right?

You know the kind.

Those rare few who have escaped the wheel of suffering …

Smiling a lot …

Always having deep-sounding things to say …

Giving you the feeling that …

 

Maybe Enlightenment Really Does Exist!

 

Well, even if “awakening” isn’t one of your goals in life, I’ll be honest with you …

It certainly is one of mine.

I even thought of calling this website “Bipolar Buddha” before locking down on the “call a spade a spade” title of Self-Improvement Supercharger.

(I’m so glad I WOKE UP to what an ego-building story-trap “Bipolar Buddha” would have been! …

Way to go, Metivier. You dodged another bullet!)

In any case … it turns out there is such a thing as an enlightenment.

And I reckon that you’re probably longing for it too, even if you don’t yet know …

 

How Badly Your Brain Craves Happiness Beyond Thought!

 

To be fair:

Maybe using the word “enlightenment” in the ways I do ring false to you …

Or won’t work with your perspective.

But here’s an epic suggestion:

Let’s skip the semantics.

 

Here’s What Enlightenment Means To “Me”

 

(Note: There’s an interesting guy who seems to dislike Gary Weber’s placement of quotations around the first-person pronoun. No comment – apart from the comment of doing it “myself” #egotrickster.)

1) Living in the now to the fullest possible extent of one’s powers

2) Radical honesty

3) Limited or even no thinking (As of day, I still feel that the absence of thought is a dimension of thought that requires cognition to occur more than its absence, but that’s just overthinking it … isn’t it? …

4) Enjoying that real deep satisfaction where you can look yourself or another person in the eyes and say without any B.S.:

Nothing can be added or taken away to make this moment that will make it better or more complete.

There you go:

That at least is a working definition of enlightenment.

And like I said:

I’ve made it my goal to achieve this.

Cold showers, thinking inside the box, eating an insanely controlled diet …

You might just say, that when it comes to self-improvement … I’m all in!

But when it comes down to the puzzle of total enlightenment, only one book has rocketed this outcome into my brain so quickly.

And I have to tell you …

 

It’s Utterly Stunning How Fast The
Obvious Omnipresence Of Enlightenment Reveals Itself!

 

But let me step back and tell you about the book that has hit me so hard since I picked it up.

Happiness Beyond Thought by Gary Weber.

Here’s the background story:

I belong to a great community of people who write posts like the one you’re reading now.

It’s called Serious Bloggers Only.

And man are we ever serious.

I mean, of all the online groups I’ve belonged to, paid or unpaid, none have produced so many offline meetings and friendships.

I’ve met up with members in the odd UK pub, restaurants and parks in Madrid, other dog-infested parts of sob-story Spain, Oslo, Berlin, Vienna …

The list of people connected with SBO goes on around the globe, including my delightful new roost, Brisbane.

Which brings me to a discussion I had with Ben Fishel of the incredible Project Monkey Mind.

It basically went like this:

 

Science Is Awesome!

 

Meanwhile … Spirituality is contested.

Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a science to spirituality that could disband with the need to believe …

In anything.

Disbelief has to go too. Just give me the data.

So with that requirement out of my mouth, Ben asks me if I’d read Gary Weber.

Nope. Never heard of the guy.

Well, you should, Ben says.

Why?

Because whoever it is that wrote Happiness Beyond Thought (he’s called Gary Weber) basically breaks enlightenment down to a materialistic and mathematical proposition that does not require belief.

 

Oh Ho! Does He Now?

 

Frankly, claims like that build the kind of curiosity-box I’ve just got to open …

But notice how nearly every single one of my requirements is addressed in the opening moves on the chess board of this presentation:

 

 

Back to my meeting with Ben …

We say goodbye, uncertain of whether or not we’ll ever meet again …

And a hop, skip and a jump later I’m home, on the Internet and I’ve got Happiness Beyond Thought on its merry way.

Then I read the book. Followed some of its practices.

And I really hope I’m not interpreting Happiness Beyond Thought to say what I want it to say.

Not that misinterpretation is always bad.

But I don’t want to delude that thing called “myself,” either!

And it’s definitely a matter of saying what I think all people need to hear in an honest and ethical way.

Here’s what impacted “me” so much from Happiness Beyond Thought.

 

If We Have To Put Up With The Mystical Woo-Woo Stuff …

 

It may have evolved for a reason.

Like sacred chants …

Deities …

The need for and use of gurus …

Weber seems to be asking:

Isn’t it possible chanting, for example, evolved because the very selection of sounds causes the tongue to touch the mouth in ways that trigger brain behaviors …

Brain behaviors that may be …

 

Impossible To Trigger In Any Other Way!

 

Same goes for yoga.

Why those moves and not others?

Could it be that a combination of conscious and unconscious testing procedures over centuries “selected” them as most likely to cause states of enlightenment?

(Oh, and Weber shared recently some interesting research that clarifies the role of gender when it comes to physical movement creating certain mental states, such as enlightenment).

Okay, I thought. I’m game.

Never one for yoga and chanting … the next thing you know, I’m all over this stuff.

Especially the exercise where you count every other number and practice something like repressing the rest to increase concentration. There are some good meditations on his site as well (I especially like the one called Opposites and Spaces).

Why try all these crazy things?

 

Because I/”I” Want To Be Free!

 

I/”I” want the sweet, non-judgmental, mental silence Weber talks about. It sounds too good to be true, which only makes me want it more.

(Okay, enough with the I/”I” schtick! For now …)

Here’s the kicker:

For once in my life … sheer desire doesn’t chase the object of desire away.

And sure enough …

It lands on me.

So hard, in fact …

I Spent Two Weeks In Some Kind Of Twilight Zone!

 

In a state of shock, I was quite honest about it with my friends … perhaps too honest!

Seriously:

I said to myself and others more than a few times:

“If this is enlightenment … I don’t want it!”

Let me explain:

When “the state” started to hit me …

It was like the sun opening up in my head.

The right side of my brain literally feels quite warm.

But I was feeling trapped in my flesh at the same time. Kind of like this sentiment by the famous Agent Smith:

 

 

And in that state, I spent hours painfully aware of the material planes of time …

… And how now that I could be free from thought, all I had left was time to sit around … waiting for it all to end.

Sounds Like A Lot Of Thinking And Misery … Doesn’t It?

 

Especially for a who supposedly just stepped into “happiness beyond thought.”

Well, I’m not entirely there yet, but here’s the thing:

As Gary Weber talks about, the disorientation passes.

Not only that, but it would be kind of suspicious if you didn’t experience.

But after the dark period, comes the light.

Thereafter, things keep getting better and better.

 

It’s true!

 

I don’t feel so disoriented or trapped in my flesh anymore.

If anything, it’s all flesh, including the air these lungs attached to the mouth beneath these eyes breathe.

Ha ha ha, that’s Buddha-grammar if ever these eyes read it, don’t you think?

Yes, “you”!

Whoever “you” may be, Happiness Beyond Thought is a great book. “I” say read it!

Comments

  1. I actually had a sort of “enlightenment experenience” of my own while reading this book. Down in Cádiz during the horrendous sandstorm we had I spent all morning acutely aware of the illusory nature of myself/everything. It wasn’t exactly unpleasant… but then I came back to Madrid and adiós enlightenment. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Interesting. What about the book do you think led to this experience in combination with the sandstorm? Are the two related?

      When you say, “adiós enlightenment” (great book title, by the way), does that mean … for good? 😉

      • I think it was just the hypnotic weird vibe of the empty streets in the sandstorm – it was like the zombie apocalypse – plus the explanation he gave of the illusion of “I” that did it. And no, when I say Adiós enlightenment I guess I mean for the next few weeks while I get business stuff back under control. I still haven’t finished the book, or started with the main practices. 🙂

        • Yes, that is a good explanation of the illusion of “I.” If it were a competition, I’d say it’s definitely clearer than Douglas Harding’s “On Having No Head.”

  2. Great to see you do a post on this Anthony.

    Gary is relatively unknown as an ‘internet guru’ but his attitude is so empty of any religious fervor that it’s such a good entry point for scientific minded individuals. It’s also very interesting to see how science can find commonalities across enlightenment/awakening experiences in different traditions, and start to work towards an empirical approach to the spiritual path.

    If you want to read one of the actual studies Gary (and others) were involved in, you can do so here:

    http://nonsymbolic.org/PNSE-Article.pdf

    Take care!

    P.S: Another recommendation I have would be Stephen Bachelors book Buddhism Without Beliefs – he was a Buddhist monk for quite a few years but left because he couldn’t reconcile a lot of the cultural hang-ups/hierarchical stuff that goes on in some Buddhist communities.

    • Excellent notes, Ben – thanks!

      I really like this “Non-symbolic Experience” term in the article you shared. It’s not sexy, but it’s clear and valuable.

      My “worry” at the moment is how all of this applies to memory techniques. These rely heavily on investing a fair amount of power to symbolism in the realm of mental cognition. I’m thinking of how the two can co-exist without creating massive interference.

      About an empirical route to walking a spiritual path, I think one of the great gambits at the moment is having a path without the word “spiritual” on it. “N=1 empiricism” isn’t sexy either, but like “non-symbolic experience,” it could well help reach the kind of mind that can’t be free because it wants and maybe even needs to reject the whole notion of spirituality.

      In the meantime, you’ve got me hooked on your book recommendations – Buddhism Without Beliefs now on its way. Thanks! 🙂

  3. Great post Anthony. I love the way you write – it’s so entertaining and it makes me think. But like Daniel, I’m trying to concentrate on my goals and I’m trying not to be distracted! Too many interesting things to do.

    Best

    Rosemary

    • Thank you so much for taking a moment to respond to this post, Rosemary. Your kind words are much appreciated.

      There is a paradox here, isn’t there? With so many interesting things to do, one wants to let the ego do its dance once in awhile, doesn’t it?

      That is one of the conclusions from the article Ben shared in his comment above yours:

      A segment of people who have Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience can switch back and forth. I seem to be heading in that direction myself, but there are apparently 8 “flavors” that have been identified, one of which may “transcend” that outcome altogether.

      Very interesting, all things considered. Kudos to all examined lives! 🙂

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