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A Matter of Subtraction


Math was never my strength but I realized fairly early on studying meditation that getting to the core of things was a matter of subtraction. Every time I would try to figure things out with the intellect, I only added another layer of pseudo realization. Every time I thought “I got it”, I lost it.

The mind always wanted to add its two cents.

Every time I found a new teaching, a new teacher, a new meditation, I would think, “This is it!” But it wasn’t it.

Every time I would have a deeper experience in meditation, the mind would grab hold of it and tell me all about it. How expansive it was, how subtle, how freeing.  But it wasn’t any of that. It was the experience itself, not what the mind added to it.

Eventually I saw the pattern. I would strive and strive. Then, when I finally gave up, I would come upon something uncontrived.

In the end I have come to realize that it is fruitless to reify any experience. The moment I do, it is already gone. I found that the only way to be free is to be free from wanting that experience to stay. That has led me to not wish for any particular experience to come in the first place. I found that the steps between where I was and where I wanted to go, were wholly self-imposed.

It is the notion of striving for something to attain that is the main obstacle. Instead of striving to get somewhere I now simply direct my mind to look at my mind. Yet, I look like there is nothing to find. The looking is enough.

Same with the heart practice; I look at the heart and the heart stirs on its own. One time I was trying to force my way into compassion. I was trying to do a particular heart opening practice and a fly kept interrupting me and I began swatting at the fly as I wished for all beings to be happy! Crazy mind. The mind was so set on doing a specific practice, to achieve something, that it forgot the purpose of the whole thing!

The balancing act here is to realize the we do need effort. We need seeking, we need to absorb the teachings, we need meditation techniques, and we need to get to the cushion. And we also need the wisdom to trust when we don’t need them anymore. It is like leaving a stoplight in a car. At first it takes effort for the vehicle to get up to to speed. Once the car is at speed we need very little to keep it going. The vehicle is running off of momentum at that point. Our meditations are like that. The effort to get to the cushion, and to do the technique gets us to the point where we can release the striving; we can rest and just be.

We have to trust that we already are what we are seeking. I think it is the one thing we miss. We miss the part where we let go of the striving, let go of the technique, let go of what we think we know. The more we let be, the more vivid the meditation becomes. Let the mind settle in its natural state, all you need to do is not fiddle with it along the way.

Rehearsing and Rehashing


“I should not have said that.”

“I should not have done that.”

“I can’t wait to get that.”

“I hope that doesn’t happen.”

“I hope that does happen.”

The mind has a tendency to go, and where it goes we have a tendency to follow. We follow the mind into some very sketchy neighborhoods, places where we don’t often feel comfortable. By following a thought we can find ourselves so much under its spell that we believe that it is true. Like a vivid dream; so lifelike it seems real.

Our favorite thing to do is “rehearse” and “rehash”. These are like the greatest hits for the mind. “Oh man, last night at that get together I should have said…” or one of my favorites I hear myself say often is, “My life is going to be great when____ happens”.

Now I’m not saying that we can’t plan life events or learn from our past experience with a bit of reflection. What I’m referring to here is our little self-critic that likes to enter life’s party without an invitation.

There is always a squeaky wheel in our life. It is like that shopping cart that you get and one wheel is screwy. We are always looking at that one thing in life that just isn’t right and once we get that one thing right, it will all be well. (That is if we are lucky; let’s face it, sometimes there is more than one squeaky wheel.)

The reality is – impermanence. Everything is in constant flux, so how could we want something to “be” a certain way? That is impossible. Nothing can be a certain way but if only for a moment.

Even if we get something we want, it would be transitory. What if you landed the “perfect job?” That job is a bunch of moving parts that are constantly changing. The people that you work with, the health of the company, etc. What about the perfect relationship? The person you are with is always changing.

Furthermore we can get attached. Even if a perfect situation comes along we can so easily move right into not wanting it to change – “I want this to stay just like this – I’m happy!”. But it won’t stay the same, nothing does.  Fear of losing what we have arises simultaneously when we get what we want.

Whatever the situation may be it is always in flux. Most importantly because YOU are always in flux; day-by-day you are a different human being. Every experience is changing you, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in great ways, but change is constant.

The fix to this however is to discover that the peace you are looking for is already here. Instead of looking for it in the rehearsing and rehashing, look for it in the only place it can be- right here. Turn towards gratitude for the good things that you do have (no matter how harsh things may seem, we can always find something). Smile if you can, your life is happening! You have arrived at your destination; for this moment is the only destination. Even that very something you are waiting for to shift something in your life will arrive in the eternal now, don’t miss it while you are busy thinking about where to find it!

We don’t will our life into certain directions, we accept the abundance that our life is and then see it everywhere. There is nowhere to go but here. The moment is unshakable.


Eat the Food, Not the Wrapper

Creative business

There is a term in mountain climbing called “Peak Bagging”. This is when climbers goes to a mountain range that has several peaks of notoriety and climb each one in a “check this one off the list manner”.

Purist will say that they have missed the point of the climb; that it is not about getting to said geographical location but instead to experience fully that which is to be discovered, as did the original explorers. The peak baggers say it is great motivation.

This reminds me of spiritual seekers; myself included. Going from one technique to another, as if the accumulation of superficial knowledge of a certain technique will lead to anything real and sustainable.

Like the mountaineers, seekers often find it very motivating to try something new.

Here are some reasons why we may ping-pong from one technique to the next:

  • We hear that one technique is “faster” or easier than another.
  • Technology says that it has the answer. (Binaural beats anyone?)
  • Science: We find that one technique has been studied and amazing results have been found.
  • A source of a particular technique is more pure, from an unbroken lineage for example, or divinely received, so it must be better.
  • The guy or girl we like is into a particular practice, so…

The reality is that learning about ourselves is about what happens after we unpackage the technique. It is like worrying about the package your food comes in instead of the actual food itself. The actually food is YOU. There may be many different wrappers, but once they are unwrapped, it is always the same nutritious you inside.

Breathe in the aroma, taste the wisdom, binge on the love that you find. Drink the spontaneous devotion.

There is an infinite buffet of treasures within. Don’t get caught up in the branding of a particular technique and miss the sweet stuff that it has inside.

Deep Water is Still Water

Under the ocean surface, abstract natural backgrounds

Here is the deal. Whatever practice you decide to do, whether it is mantra meditation, Transcendental meditation, Mindfulness, Kundalini, practices of the heart (Metta), the invitation is to go deep.

Stay with a practice a while, let it sink in. This might be for a year or two or much longer. This is not to say you can’t have more than one technique in your repertoire (I do), but stick with them. If you like to have a devotional aspect to your practice , along with a more concentration based techniques, great, but do those deeply.

Keep traveling inward, get your butt on the cushion. This is were the feast is, in the silence, in the depths.


Meditation is Not Escapism

Meditation face

Sometimes while ending my meditation at the beach I will slowly begin to open my eyes only to find that there is nothing there. The mind has temporarily forgot its labels and “sand”, “ocean”, and “sky”, are, for the moment, without description. Free from the bounds of conceptual reification, consciousness just sits with itself. The “I” that thought it was going to sit down and do some meditation is now reduced to a momentary experience of being-ness.

Soon the material constructs begin to build once again. The mind, drawing lines around the infinite, starts to bring shape to the shapeless, and before long the walls of time and space are firmly fixed. Fixed enough for a “bird” to “fly” through the “sky”.

I am reminded that this is a great illusion; a beautiful one, and sometimes a sad one, but an illusion through and through. The invitation is to meditate, to pass through the veil so much so that the illusion and truth are no longer separate. The dreamer and the dreamed are seen as one.

Meditation is not escapism, as some think. It is realism. Our beliefs and concepts are, by their very nature, false. They are temporary, and not one of them can be universally agreed upon. Outside the confines of beliefs and concepts reality awaits.

Here, beyond uniqueness and individualism we can all touch the universal. Since this space is free of boundaries and opposition, love is here in its full measure. We can come to meditation for all sorts of reasons, yet I always find love and happiness to be the central call in all our pursuits. Love and happiness are frequently hidden from our view by imprisoned imaginary objects that are supposed to release contentment when acquired. Of course it is not the object ripe with love but the perceiver, our very selves that are innately brimming over.

It is quite counter intuitive to find this love and happiness already at our door, without threshold or effort, and free of object. As counter intuitive as it is, this does not mean difficult. All we must do to acquire freedom and enter into our fullness is to decide not to be ruled by our mental constructs, the self-imposed divisions, categories and dualism. Instead we must give into the heart, give into intuition, give into being.

On this journey we may meet many interesting people and discover many fascinating things, but not one of them can be as illuminating as the moment we let go of the path, let go of the journey altogether and decide once and for all to discover ourselves.



Daytime Dream Yoga

Flying with fantasy

You have probably heard the sages saying that this so called reality is a dream. Of course they are not the only ones, as scientists are now saying it too. It seems like every few months there is another breakthrough to prove this theory. But how do we wake up to this fact ourselves experientially?

Centuries ago Tibetan Buddhist masters developed a practiced that could be used to pierce through the veil of illusion and release the practitioner from this wrong view of seeing the unreal as real, they called the practice Daytime Dream Yoga.

The essence of Daytime Dream Yoga is to see this so called reality as a dream. Just like a nightly dream, things appear but they are non-existent of the label that we give them. They appear, but they are not “real”.

First, some science.

Quantum physicists have discovered that the smallest identifiable particles known are actually not fixed. An atom can appear as a particle in one experiment and a wave in the other, all depending on the mind perceiving it.

Pioneer Physicist Werner Heisenberg says, “What we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”

In a very real way this material world is a game of make believe. Just like children play make believe with dolls. They may dress the dolls up like sailors, dancers or partygoers, but the dolls are not really what they are dressed up to be- they are merely labeled as such.

Here are 3 ways we can easily see that things are not as we usually see them. All phenomena are:

  1. Empty of the label we give them.
  2. Dependent on something else to “exist” (so they don’t exist by themselves).
  3. Void of a universal identity, meaning not all minds see that same thing.

For example: Things are “empty” of the label we give them. Empty means “not finding”. We cannot find the very label that we give something.
We cannot find the “car” in the car. This thing labeled “car” is a collection of parts serving the function of car and yet the very “car-ness” cannot be found directly.

If the car is dependent on these other components to make it so, and if it is dependent on the very label to make it so and if it is dependent on the mind perceiving it to make it so, then it does not exist from its own side.

Each mind will see something different as well, proving that things are not permanent, or fixed or “true”. One person might see a Mercedes and think it is an expensive car, a billionaire might see it and think it’s her “cheap” car, a member of an indigenous tribe might not even think that it is a “car” at all.

So what is this thing called “Mercedes” then really?

The Dream Walk

The power of Daytime Dream Yoga is that you can bring your practice everywhere and cut through the very fabric of delusion. I cannot recommend highly enough taking a “dream walk” as often as you can.

As you begin your walk start with statements like these… “I am dreaming, this is definitely a dream”, “For sure, I’m dreaming right now”, “Wow, I’m waking up into a dream”. Convince yourself that although this has been known to be a reality, you are actually dreaming.

Continue on with “I know I must be dreaming because these things I see, although they appear, they are not real, they are illusions”
Here is when you start picking out things to “debunk”. Pick out trees, cars, people, the walking surface, the birds… anything.

Universal questions to ask of all things you see on your walk.

  • Where exactly is the label I give this thing?  Example: where is the car in the car?
  • Does this thing exist by the label I give it by itself? Or does it need other things? Example. Does it need small, to be labeled large, in the same way the number 3 needs the numbers 2 and 4?
  • At what point will it cease to exist as this label exactly? Example: When exactly does a “young tree” stop being labeled “young”?
  • Will all minds label this thing as I do? The birds, insects, all peoples of the world, would they all see this as I see it?
  • Could this thing be easily labeled something else?  Example, a house can become a dental office or another place of business quite easily.

As you walk noticing the inherently empty nature of things, and continue to affirm “I am dreaming, this is definitely a dream”. “I know this is a dream because I cannot even find the “thing-ness” of what I am looking at. All is appearing, but an illusion, a hallucination.

Want to learn more about Dream Yoga? Pick up a copy of “Dream Yourself Awake” by B. Alan Wallace

Just Love,

Cayce Howe
Merely Labeled Meditation Instructor