In case this has escaped anyone's attention, this blog is very informal. I'm writing about what sparks my interest. This blog might become more refined over time, but as of now, my goal is merely to keep things flowing.
So, diving right into the first chapter, I'm struck by Joel's citations about what causes suffering. The following seems very pertinent:
"The ego sense is deep-rooted and powerful....It creates the impression that 'I am the actor, I am he who experiences.'"--Shankara (Hindu sage) p. 8
I've noticed this in my own life. Also, the opposite: I've had the sense of things just flowing through me when I'm in a state of acceptance, surrender and/or non-resistance. When I experience that state Shankara speaks of, I suffer. When I am in a flow state, I suffer much less. I'm not sure I can say I'm free of suffering when in a flow state, but to be fair, I'm not in that state for long periods of time either--at some point, my ego "enter fear" and starts "interfering". (A tip of my chapeau to author of "The Presence Process", Michael Brown, for pointing out that to 'interfere' and to 'enter fear' are the same.)
"The contemporary Sufi master Javad Nurbaksh sums it up this way: 'As long as you are "you", you will be miserable and impoverished.' According to...mystics, then, it is not the simple fact of impermanence that causes our suffering. In order for suffering to occur, there has to be some self to experience it. If there were no self, there would be no suffering....although attachment, desire, and impermanence are all important CONTRIBUTING factors to the generation of suffering, what the mystics say is that, at an even deeper level, suffering depends on the presence of some self, capable of being a suffer-ER." p. 8
This makes a certain degree of sense to me. If one is "empty", then experiences just flow through--one doesn't get stuck, so one doesn't suffer. But Joel goes on to accurately point out that we are basically "stuck" with a separate self (or at least the illusion of it). Which leads to the question:
"Does suffering have a cause even more fundamental than the experience of being a separate self--a cause which perhaps we CAN do something about? Of course, the mystics' answer to this is yes."--Joel Morwood (author) p. 8
This is where things start to get a little confusing, or at least, very subtle. Because according to the mystics, the cause of suffering isn't this sense of a separate self, but rather that we are ignorant that our true nature isn't, in fact, this separate self.
Joel makes a helpful analogy: "...when mystics claim there is not self, they are not saying that such things as thoughts, memories, emotions, sensations...don't appear in consciousness....(but) that the boudary which encloses these phenomena and marks them off as a separate entity has no true existence. It is an imaginary creation, much like boundaries which separate one country from another."--Joel Morwood (author) p. 10
So, for me, this helps alleviate any confusion. Boundaries between counties are useful, but not ultimately real. So it is also with this imaginary boundary which separates "me" from "you".