24 September 2014

A Long Quote from Michael Hall, a Psychologist, Well Summarizing My Own Anti-Zombie Teachings

Attachment to Emptiness

        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) to recognize how stuck they are without some external assistance. This is where a trusted teacher who has successfully exited the cave and reengaged 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 reengagement 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. 


Over and over I have been hearing from people who have practices self-inquiry, or been students of Ramana, Robert Adams, or Nisargadatta, that after months or years of such meditation they have fallen into deep depression.

Reading Robert, Ramana, or Nisargadatta, they hear that the self and the world are both unreal or empty of meaning and self-creation.  So, they say to themselves, "What is the point of practice, meditation, etc.?  What is the point of anything, and life leaves them, draining away emotions and joy, and they are caught in emptiness, Nothingness, and dry out. Some even commit suicide.

I specialize in rescuing these depressed, lonely, loveless, lifeless beings who listened to Ramana or Robert and practiced self-inquiry the wrong way.

Neither Robert Adams, nor Ramana ever themselves practices self-inquiry. Self-inquiry as they describe it is deadening.

Real self-inquiry is not finding the origin or source of the I-thought, but finding the sense of I Am, the feeling of being alive and present,  and then dwelling there.  When you find the I-feeling, just rest in it.  More than that, love it.  Speak to it.  Accept it into you, the Witness.  Fill the emptiness more and more by an awakening of the I Am sensation into a totally energetic presence.

The process is finding the I Am sense. Abide there. Love the I Am sense.  Take it into your heart. Accept all that arises within while dwelling in the I Am, as you, whether joy, bliss, or depression and fear.  It is all you.

There are at least three ways to awaken, by passing through various regions of the Self: the emotional body; the energetic body; or by love and devotion.

The most difficult in terms of "drama" is the emotional body route.  The easiest is through love and devotion, but not many are capable of the depth of love necessary.  But all three paths are interdependent.  Success at any of the three helps with success on the other two paths. Opening emotionally, especially through love, allows a greater opening to the energy body, and a continued deepening allows a point of explosive Sef-Realization of the Manifest Self, the Atman, or the duality of God in Man incarnate.

This is the antidote to the seeker of the transcendental who becomes lost in nothingness, heaviness, emotionlessness, and no meaning.  The is the cure for the spiritual Zombie. Practicing my way of self-inquiry is juicy, messy, and filled with the Life-Force, thus is also a vaccine against the Zombie Apocolypse.


  1. Thanks for posting the article that I shared with you by Dr. Michael Hall, who, by the way, is also friends with Francis Bennett, another spiritual teacher who you yourself are friends with. Ah.......what a small world we live in!

  2. Edji, please read more about Adyashanti ... he expresses what you want to express too.

  3. I guess you'd have to call this a case of "neurological coincidence" but I can recall that when I was taking Prozac years back for a reoccurrence of anxiety(agoraphobia to be exact) when I started with it, it was lovely initially how much "in the moment" I felt, ensconced in this non-stop 24/7 feeling of mild elation. But within about three months, that experience insidiously turned into a robot like state of feelinglessness or emptiness as it's described in the article and it got so intolerable I said, "fuck that, I'll gladly take the anxiety back!" because I lost out on the positive states I naturally relished be it joy, happiness, anger and what not. So I stopped taking it altogether and eventually over a period of time had a more desirable means of dealing with the anxiety, free of drug usage.

  4. Hi Ed, thanks for the clarification! It helps to know what self-inquiry is and what it´s not!