Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Message for the New Year

One of my favorite teachers of nonduality is Mooji.  I thought this video message would be a nice way to close out the year.

During the end of the holiday season, we often focus on old memories and also make projections about the way we want things to be in the coming year.  That's one way to approach the end of the year.  Mooji offers us another way of looking at life where we don't need to dwell on either past or future -- but rather live in the freshness of each moment.

Enjoy the video...and my best wishes to you for the New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Becoming Less Self-Conscious

As you investigate what you are and question the personal identity, you may find, even at an early stage, that you become less self-conscious.

One dictionary definition of self-conscious is:  "unduly conscious of yourself as an object of notice."  That is the way I am using the term here.

I began noticing this in everyday interactions, such as when standing on line at the check-out counter of the supermarket.  Prior to self-inquiry, I'd have an awareness of how I was standing on the line, such as the position of my arms and hands.  I might also think about whether my hair (or should I say what is left of it) was out of place.

These are subtle things, but there was some pre-occupation with how this self was presenting itself to others.  It's a slight undercurrent of being ill at ease.  My guess is that you've had this feeling at some point in your life.

After months of inquiry, this pre-occupation diminished considerably.  There was little attention given to the positioning of the arms, or what I looked like in that particular moment.  Nor was I concerned with how the cashier or others on the line looked or acted.  It felt more like being part of the space, as opposed to being an individual object in the space. 

Becoming less self-conscious is not to be equated with gaining confidence.  During self-inquiry, you will usually have moments of feeling lost, which most people would describe as a loss of confidence.  As I see it, building confidence is the game of the separate self.  It is a judgment made by the separate individual by comparing its level of confidence with the confidence level of others.

Attempts to build confidence strengthen the separate self.  Nondual investigation leads to the dissolution of the sense of the separate self.  If there is no separate self, what entity needs to build confidence?  Only the ego or separate entity would be concerned with building confidence.  I played that game for decades until I realized it was a dead end.

As self-consciousness diminishes during inquiry, the concept of the separate self is eroding, but there is fear and uncertainty as to what will emerge or take the place of the old concept of self. 

Nothing to worry about.  Let it unfold.  Take it as a good sign if you find yourself becoming less self-conscious. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Before, During, and After

If you're interested in exploring what you are, here's an exercise I've found very helpful.  I call it "Before, During and After."  If you've been doing self-inquiry for a while, this will not be new to you; however, you might find it useful as a way to recognize clarity in those instances where you're feeling trapped as the personal, separate entity and identifying with thoughts, feelings and events.

Whatever it is that you are, I think it's accurate to say that it is always present.  In other words, what you are doesn't come and go.  There is never a point where you can say "I don't exist" or "I'm not here."  Something about you is always here, 24/7.

Let's put aside the issue of deep, dreamless sleep for now.  You may feel that you can't confirm your existence during deep sleep.  But I don't know anyone who claims that their existence stops during deep sleep and that they spring back to life each morning.  There's a sense, at least, that what you are is Ever-Present.

By the way, if you think you don't exist during deep sleep, there might be someone sleeping in the room with you, hearing your snoring, that will assure you that you haven't ceased to exist!

In contrast to your Ever-Present nature, all thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations come and go.  They have a beginning and an end.  And whatever it is that YOU are... witnesses the coming and going of all phenomena.

Let's take sadness for example.

BEFORE sadness is felt, YOU are there.  You know when it has arisen.
DURING the feeling of sadness, YOU are there. 
AFTER sadness passes, YOU are there.

Of course the same is true for bliss.  Before bliss arises, YOU are there.  During bliss, YOU are there.  When bliss passes, YOU are there.

What are YOU?

You are that which witnessess all thoughts, emotions, and sensations.  YOU are the constant.  The phenomena are temporary.

You are Awareness, Consciousness, or whatever name you wish to give to it.  You are not a thing.  All things come and go in YOU.

Some might think that they are the personality or the characteristics they identify with, such as I'm John, I'm Chinese, I'm a plumber, or I follow such and such religion.  However, those things can change and yet YOU don't.  For instance, if you changed your name, YOU would still be YOU.  The essence of what you are wouldn't change.

If you had amnesia and forgot the country of your birth, would the essence of YOU change?  No.  If you change careers or religions, get higher or lower self-esteem, or change any aspect of your personality, the essence of YOU would be the same.

YOU are not your personality or any description you might give of yourself.  YOU witness all aspects of the personality and descriptions.  They can come and go, but YOU always remain.

What can YOU be, other than the Presence/Awareness in which everything comes and goes?

Even the thought of being an individual person comes and goes.  Every night when you go to sleep, you give up this thought of being a person.  When you wake up, the thought of being a person with things to do that day appears once again.

BEFORE the thought of person arises, YOU are there to witness its arrival.
DURING the thought of being a person, YOU are there.
AFTER the thought of being a person passes, YOU are there.

The thought of being a person comes and goes many times throughout your day.  You can be daydreaming or watching a sunset without holding onto the idea that you are a person.  Observation and knowing takes place but it is more of an impersonal observation and knowing.

You can go to a hypnotist, who can get you to believe that you are a giraffe, or a tree.  Does that change the essence of what YOU are?  You don't become a giraffe or a tree by believing that thought.  When the belief of giraffe or tree goes away and you re-accept the idea of being a person, has anything about your true essence changed?  No, it has been untouched by any beliefs that arose and subsided.

What YOU are never changed.

When you looked in a mirror at age 10, some entity recognized you and knew you existed.  When you look in the mirror now, that same entity recognizes you and knows you exist.  Every cell in your brain and in your entire body has changed many, many times from age 10 to today.  Yet the entity that knew you at age 10 is unchanged today.  It has NOT been coming and going.

We tend to get trapped into putting our focus on thoughts, emotions and sensations that are raging at the moment.  The mind is enthralled with things and appearances.  In so doing, we identify with these phenomena and forget the peaceful background in which all phenomena appear.    

Bringing attention back to our true nature (Awareness) brings peace, compassion and insight.  Awareness is not personal and is not troubled by any phenomena that appear.

Apply the Before, During, and After exercise to any thought, feeling, emotion -- whether positive, neutral or negative.  Realize that what YOU are never changes.  YOU are the background, the screen, in which all phenomena come and go.

YOU are the changeless in which all change appears.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How Much Do YOU Control?

At an early stage of the inquiry into the nature of our being, we must investigate the issue of control.  How much control or choice do you have in your life?

I've noticed that those who will not examine this issue have no foundation for going forward with meaningful inquiry.  They have decided to stick with their existing beliefs, and this position precludes any breakthroughs or discoveries.  If, on the other hand, you are willing to look with a fresh openness, you will gain many insights.  

For purposes of this message, I'm going to put aside the issue of the personal identity -- that entity we often take to be located inside the skin line.  Nonduality does not recognize the existence of such a limited, personal consciousness inside the body, and I'll be discussing that in upcoming posts.

For now, let's isolate the issue of control and do a thorough, ruthless examination of the degree to which we have control in our lives.  In the last blog post, I focused on thoughts and emotions;  this time, the investigation of control will expand into other areas as well.

Start with your physical body.  Do you, as an individual, have control over your breathing -- or is this handled by God or the Life Force?  Some force other than the individual must be in control, because you keep breathing whether you are aware of your breathing or not.  You're breathing as you read this message, without any conscious effort. You breathe during sleep.  Furthermore, you have no idea how to make yourself breathe.  Breathing is not in your control.  It might be more accurate to say that breathing is happening or that you are being breathed.

What about your heartbeat and circulation?  Are you controlling that?  Here again, the heart is beating without your input and also while you are asleep.  You have no idea how the blood is moving around or what causes it to do what it is doing.  Not in your control.

Genetics, DNA, etc. -- Not in your control.  You are born with a genetic code you didn't choose.  You have no idea how to "make" DNA or genes, for that matter.  A complete mystery to you, and yet it determines so much in your life.

How about the digestive system?  What do you, as an individual, do to control the digestive functions?  Do you know the recipe for all the enzymes and when to release them?  You know these activities are going on without your control.

Let's move on to the healing of cuts and bruises and the workings of your immune system.  You certainly don't have control over those functions, although you may believe your activities have some influence over them.  However, you can't direct the white blood cells and you don't control how or when your blood clots.

And let's not forget the functioning of the five senses.  Do you know how to "wire" a sense of smell or touch into your body?  Do you activate your taste buds before each meal?  You haven't the slightest idea how the senses are operating or how signals are being sent from the brain throughout the body to make these miracles happen.

Our bodies, for the most part, seem to be running on automatic pilot.  You might argue that you have some choice or control over some of these bodily functions, but it is very limited at best.  Unquestionably, many things concerning your body are happening without any control on your part.

Let's consider the body movements of the human being.  Do you believe you are in control of your movements?  When you scratch your ear, or put your hand on your face, do YOU control each of these movements?  You cross your legs or move your toes many times a day without thinking about it.  Who initiates those movements?  Right this moment, your body is moving in ways you're not even aware of .  Who or what is in control of that?

Can you tell me which movements you made ten minutes ago -- and what you did to initiate those movements?  Can you explain to me, in precise detail, how you get your arm to move? Or, is it more accurate to say that movement simply happens?

We know that body movements are happening even while you are asleep.  You move your arms, legs, head and toes during sleep.  Who is in control of these movements while you are asleep?  Obviously there is some power that is able to move these things without you even being awake.  What makes you think this power isn't moving them when you're awake?

Do you hand over the power to move your body when you go to sleep -- and then "retrieve" your control from God when you get up each morning?  Somehow, when that alarm clock rings, we have the notion that we are back in control of our lives.  What arrogance and foolishness.

We can also learn a lot by investigating the movements of animals and other creatures.  You may think that when you walk across the room, you are making the choice to do so -- and have control over the movement.  Seems perfectly logical.  Not so fast.

If an ant crawls across the same room, you wouldn't say the ant made a choice and exercised control over that movement.  You probably believe that the ant lacks sufficient brain function to make choices.  The ant, you might say, is moved by instinct or Nature.

The most primitive insects and fish don't have developed brains, yet they move about effortlessly.  Thus, it would seem that individual control or choice is not required for organisms to move.  There is some power or force that can initiate movements for them. 

Are you certain that humans are exempt from this principle -- and that you are controlling all of your own movements?  Where is your evidence to support such a claim?  Aren't human beings part of Nature?  The human mind says that Nature is moving and controlling just about everything on this earth....EXCEPT the thoughts and actions of the human being.

I think the mind might have a flimsy case.

Here's another point to consider.  We know that babies, shortly after birth, do not have developed brains that allow them to exercise conscious control over their movements.  Some power obviously "moves" the babies.  If you believe the child eventually does acquire control over his or her movements, at what age does that happen?

When does God hand over the controls to the child and say, "Now it's up to you.  I'm releasing the control and you can now make decisions on your own.  You can move your arms and legs when you choose."  Does this transfer of control happen at two years old?  Two years and six months?  Does it vary for each child?

It's time to open up this examination to the entire world.  Clearly, there are millions of things the human being does not control.  This includes the weather, rivers and oceans, planets, stars, galaxies, plants, insects, fish, animals and so forth.  How much control do you have over these things?  You, as an individual, didn't create them.  You don't control the rising and setting of the sun, or the movement of the ocean waves.  You don't control earthquakes or tsunamis.

The fact that the human mind is able to think does not mean that those thoughts can actually exert control.
What is the difference between the bird singing and YOU singing? Perhaps the bird can carry a tune a little better.  Seriously, however, one key distinction is that you have a mind that says "I am singing" whereas the bird's mind presumably does not have this ability to think.  The bird doesn't need a thought in order to sing.  Singing happens for the bird.

In the case of the human singing,  the thought "I am singing" is not DOING the singing.  It is offering a comment about the singing and perhaps an opinion as to who is controlling the singing, but it is not actually doing the singing.  Can a thought sing?  Does the thought "la, la, la" produce any sound or move the vocal chords?

Most people, myself included, don't even know the precise location of their vocal chords.  They wouldn't know when flaps should be open or closed or how sound is produced.  Yet sounds are produced.  It simply happens, and I can't say that I am in control of anything in the production of sound.

I've raised a lot of questions here about the extent of our control.  Several years ago, I accepted the invitation to investigate this issue and found that many of the beliefs I held for a lifetime simply weren't true.  They consisted of unsubstantiated thoughts, and nothing more.

This can be frightening as we no longer have anything to hold onto.  But it is only after honest investigation, and letting go, that self-inquiry can work its magic.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Self-Help vs. Nonduality

Most people who find their way to nonduality have spent years studying and applying self-help methods, such as positive thinking and what is referred to as Law of Attraction.  So I thought it would be a good idea to discuss some of the key differences between self-help philosophy and nonduality.

If you are relatively new to nonduality, this discussion may be a helpful gauge of whether you are open to nondual investigation and self-inquiry.  If you have considerable resistance to the points raised here, or feel this discussion is irrelevant, my guess is that you are not ripe for nondual investigation right now.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.    If you are not receptive, that is simply what is.  Honor that and move on.

Most self-help methods are based on the assumption that there is an individual person (located inside the skin line) who is able to choose thoughts and emotions and thereby cause certain outcomes to occur that are consistent with those thoughts and feelings.

Nonduality takes a very different view.  Nonduality does not recognize the validity of the individual, personal identity.  There is simply no limited entity inside the skin line that can be identified.  However, for purposes of this message, let's not concentrate on that aspect of nonduality.

Instead, let's confine ourselves to the other issue I raised above -- the degree to which we choose and control our thoughts and actions.  We can even assume, just for purposes of this message, that there IS an individual entity within the skin line.  The aim is to focus on whether we are able to control thoughts, emotions and actions. 

Do you, the individual person, control your thoughts, emotions and also your actions?

If you're ready to look into this, it's important to make a thorough, ruthless investigation of the evidence.  Put aside your preconceived beliefs for a moment and look only at your actual experience of your thoughts and feelings.  Make believe you're an investigator of a homicide case, where you will take nothing for granted, and will leave no stone unturned.  Each assumption will be rigorously tested.  Your only objective is to solve the case and arrive at the truth.

Traditional self-help says we choose our thoughts and have control over them.  A few exercises might shed some light on this.

To begin with,  I'd like you to spend five minutes without thinking about anything.  Find a time when you can relax.  You can keep your eyes open or closed.  That's up to you.  Keep your mind free of any thoughts.  If you control the thought mechanism, all you need to do is shut off the "faucet" of thoughts and don't allow any thoughts into your mind.

Unless you are the one in a million exception, you won't be able to keep thoughts away for the five minute period.  The overwhelming majority of you (including skilled meditators) will have thoughts in the first minute.  Some people will not last two seconds in a thought-free state.  Why?  Because the thoughts are just arising -- you are not controlling them.  If you were in control, you could stop them.  But you can't.

Your day-to-day experience also reveals that you don't control your thoughts and emotions.  Each day, you are going about your regular business of living, and a thought pops up out of the blue, such as:

I wonder what I'll have for lunch today
Did I shut off the lights in my bedroom before I left?
I really should call my friend tonight

While doing your work, you might suddenly think about a classmate you haven't seen for 20 years, a terrible movie you saw last week, or your cholesterol level.

You had no intention of thinking these thoughts (and experiencing any emotions that came with them), but they just popped up.  How can you say that you were in control of them?  They just appear.  These thoughts actually intruded on something else you were thinking or doing. Who or what is putting these uninvited thoughts into your mind?

For decades, I too believed that I was in control of my thoughts.  To prove it, I would ask people to think about a pink elephant.  They could think about that and even picture it.  Then I would ask them to get a picture of an ice cream cone.  They could do that too.  Thus, I had proved that we could control our own thinking. However, my test was not a valid proof at all.

All I proved is that if you're directed to think about an object, you can think about that object and even form an image of it in your mind.  However, you can't retain that image or thought for any period of time, and you can't control the thoughts and images that come streaming in, without your permission, right after you focus on the initial object.

Therefore, if I ask you to think of a pink elephant and nothing else for ten minutes, you won't be able to do it.  Other thoughts and images will rush in, without your invitation.  Thus you aren't in control of the thoughts.

Some might quibble over my use of the word "control."  You may believe that you often control your thoughts, although some idle thoughts push their way into your mind now and then. 

Let's get real about what "control" means. When you control something, you control it.  You have dominion over it.  When you are invested in the truth of self-help principles, you tend to take great license with the meaning of  this word "control."

Consider this example.  You own a car and you attempt ten right turns by turning the steering wheel to the right.  On five occasions, the car goes to the right.  On five occasions, the car goes straight or turns left.  Would you say that you had control over the car?  Of course not.

If the car does some things on its own, you don't have control over the car.  Same thing is true with your thoughts and feelings.

Let's try another angle, which is even more basic.  If you control your thoughts, why would you ever allow negative thoughts and images to be in your mind?  If you were in control, you would decide to have only thoughts of happiness, wealth, harmonious relationships,  business success, vibrant health and other goodies like that.  You could even choose very specific thoughts in each of these areas (such as earning a million dollars a year), as self-help teaches.

Yet you know that even if you make a decision to harbor only positive thoughts, other "non-positive" thoughts would creep in.  And you also know that even if you kept thinking, affirming, and visualizing a million dollar salary, you might not reach that goal. Why does that happen if the individual has control of the thought/emotion/image mechanism?

We can also learn about our thoughts if we investigate what happens when we dream during sleep.  How much control do you have over the thoughts and images that arise while you're asleep and dreaming?  You know that images and thoughts are arising.  Yet, you are not selecting them.  Who controls these?  Who or what is putting them into your awareness?

People often refer to these images as coming from the "subconscious" mind.  No matter what name we use to identify the source of these images, they aren't coming from any conscious thoughts YOU are controlling.  Some other force appears to be putting these images into your mind.

As we know, these images and thoughts can relate to something we're facing in our lives right now -- or they can be very bizarre and involve people we don't know or those we haven't seen for many years.  We can have dreams that involve people who are deceased.  Some of the plots are wild, to say the least.

Who provides the content of these stories?  Who selects the cast members that will appear in our dreams?  If thoughts and images can appear without your effort while you're asleep, what makes you think they can't be supplied to you, without your permission, while you're awake?  What evidence do you have that the rules are different in the waking state as opposed to the dream state?

Can you really be sure that you control your thoughts -- or do thoughts arise spontaneously?  Look only to the evidence.

I'll be the first to admit that positive thoughts and positive emotions seem to yield positive results and a more satisfying life (as compared with negative thoughts and negative emotions).  BUT....there is still no proof that the individual person is choosing to have these positive thoughts or has control over how and when they arise.

The proponents of Law of Attraction will excitedly tell you about the car or house they obtained by visualizing and affirming it.  They will say that they attracted the car or house.  But for every car or house they attracted, there are a dozen or more conditions in their lives that they don't want -- and have been seeking (unsuccessfully) to change for many years.

Plain and simple, Law of Attraction hasn't worked for them in those areas.  Perhaps they have the car but they don't earn the salary they want.  Or they've had three failed marriages and two bankruptcies.  They affirmed and visualized their ideal salary, their ideal partner, their ideal career and perfect health.  And it hasn't happened.

Why hasn't Law of Attraction worked in all these areas?  The mind is clever and these people will explain that they have some subconscious barriers or limiting beliefs they still need to work on.

It comes down to whether you want to cling to your old conditioned beliefs... or face the evidence regarding the control you exercise over your thoughts, emotions and actions.

More than 25 years ago, I became interested and passionate about self-help principles.  They revolutionized my life.  I read hundreds of self-development books and listened to thousands of hours of motivational audio programs.  I loved speaking and writing about self-help principles and found great meaning in my work.

However, about three years ago, after more than 20 years as a self-development speaker and author, I knew something was not quite right with the self-help model.

There were some things I knew I couldn't control, no matter how hard I tried and no matter how positive I was.  I realized that positive thinking and Law of Attraction principles would never offer the peace and harmony I sought.  That led me to STOP and to investigate the nature of my thoughts and emotions.  Once investigated, I could see right away that I wasn't controlling my thoughts and emotions.

It is not my intention to bash self-help material or denigrate those who believe in its effectiveness.  It serves its role.  In fact, if a person is not open to nonduality, I would recommend that he or she attempt to cultivate positive thoughts and positive emotions to the maximum. 

However, there are serious limitations with this model and when one is ready to examine the evidence, the flaws in the model become obvious.

Here's an interesting video about the extent to which we control our decisions.  I don't offer it as conclusive proof of anything, but it certainly suggests that there are many things about our thoughts and decisions that are not explained by mainstream beliefs.

Monday, December 6, 2010

So Preposterous It Has To Be True

Many of us who are attracted to nonduality messages can't explain why we became interested in the first place.  We may be fed up with certain aspects of life, or have a nagging realization that our models of reality are not valid and will never lead to peace and harmony.  Some are introduced to nonduality after they have gone through a specific crisis that opened them up to new possibilities.

At the beginning of our exposure to nonduality, what we read and hear might sound like lunacy.  So much of what we took to be real is now being questioned.  As the investigation unfolds, our beliefs are being demolished, and we are thrown into "not knowing." All of our apparent foundations are crumbling, making room for a new way of seeing.

The wild thing about nonduality is that amidst the chaos that arises initially, there is something in us that knows we are being introduced to the truth about ourselves.  This doesn't always happen until there is some openness to investigate our true nature.  It seems possible to "bail out" of nonduality teachings if you are not open and willing to investigate.  But once you even start to engage in an honest inquiry, you wind up being hooked.

Once hooked, there are signs along the way to keep our attention on the nonduality messages, and that allow us to continue even when confusion and discomfort arises.

For me, one of the most important early signs came from reading books by Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle.  I was led somehow to pick up the book, Loving What Is (Three Rivers Press) by Byron Katie (often referred to as "Katie").  Katie, while in her mid-40s, was in a dark, deep depression and full of rage.  She checked into a halfway house for women.

One morning, she had been sleeping on the floor and woke up without any concept of who she was.  She said "there was no me."  All was well -- depression gone, rage gone.  Something else was looking through her eyes but it was all joy and peace.

In an instant, and through no effort on her part, the individual identity had spontaneously combusted.  She no longer saw herself as a body/mind, but rather as the Awareness or Consciousness in which this body/mind Katie was appearing.  She has remained with that peace and joy for more than 20 years, and shares her insights through books and by conducting workshops around the world.

Then I was drawn to re-read Eckart Tolle's book, The Power of Now (New World Library).  I read the book when it first came out about ten years ago, but it didn't mean much to me.  I did the usual underlining throughout, but I wasn't ready to hear what he was saying.

About three years ago, when I picked up the book again, I was open to receive his message.  In the Introduction, Tolle talks about a period in his life in his late 20s when he was suicidally depressed.  One day he woke up early in the morning and felt intense dread and lost all desire to continue living.

He experienced intense fear and then it passed.  He then found himself in a state of peace and bliss and the sense of personal identification had vanished.  As he describes it, "what was left then was my true nature as the ever present I AM:   consciousness in its pure state prior to identification with form."

Another spontaneous combustion of the personal identity!  And here again, the individual, having lost the sense of personal identity came to a realization that what he or she the Consciousness or Awareness  in which all objects are appearing.

This was my reaction:  This is so preposterous it has to be true.

Nobody could make up a story like this.  "I was just minding my own business (or suffering or whatever) and I woke up to the fact that what I am is not the personal body/mind -- but rather an impersonal, intangible, field of Awareness which is peace and joy."

This is so preposterous, I thought, that it has to be true.

What is even more startling is that Katie and Eckhart claim that they had no spiritual teachers and didn't read spiritual books.  It's not that they had been reading and studying about nonduality, Zen or eastern religious traditions.  There were no apparent reference points in their conditioning to explain this incredible, sudden shift in their perspective.

Who could make up a story like this?  And now I had read TWO of them.  Simply preposterous.

Now, I could see someone claiming to be the second coming of Jesus.  In fact, I have seen several people claiming this on the streets of New York City.  These deluded people have a reference point for such a story.  They have read or know about the Bible and are familiar with some of the beliefs of Christianity.  They have some tools from which to concoct their story.

But how does someone with no background in nonduality come up with a story where the personal ego vanishes and there is a realization of the true nature as Awareness itself?   I know I'm repeating myself, but it is truly mind boggling.

It is so has to be true.

After reading the accounts of Katie and Eckhart, I went on the internet and found several more accounts (including interviews) with people who had this same experience.  One moment the personal identity was there -- the next moment it had vanished.  Most of the accounts I saw were from people who were not spiritual seekers and who had little or no exposure to anything resembling nonduality.

In most of these cases, the belief in the personal identity returned for some period of time.  However, eventually, these people settled into a realization that their true nature is Awareness and not the personality or ego.

I also want to make it clear that those who have these realizations do not deny or run away from the personal identity.  If you call these people by name, they will answer you.  Their lives go on much like before; it's just that they realize their true position or essence is not the body/mind but rather the Awareness in which this amazing play is unfolding.

Of course, most people who are drawn to nonduality don't have a spontaneous combustion of the personal identity at the outset.  The Katie and Eckhart instances are probably one in a billion, or close to that.  I wouldn't recommend waiting for a spontaneous combustion of your ego.

On the contrary, most people who find themselves exposed to nondual teachings go through what appears to be a process, with a roller coaster of openings and insights, mixed with lots of frustration and confusion along the way.   In the relative play of existence, it often takes years for the nondual realization to mature.

When I first read the accounts of Katie and Eckhart, what they said sounded preposterous.  Now what they said seems entirely natural and resonates as truth, even though I haven't fully realized what they have come to see so clearly. 

What now seems preposterous are the beliefs I held before about being a separate individual running around in a world of separate objects.