The Art of Spiritual Life – a talk by Da Free John –
August 13, 1983
Crazy Wisdom Magazine – January
1984, Vol 3, No. 1
The Beginning of the talk:
MASTER DA: People look for uncommon phenomenal
signs because they are full of doubt and un-Happiness. Such
experiences suggest to them that there is a reason to feel
good perhaps, but they are not profoundly transformed by
witnessing such signs. In fact, having witnessed them, they
begin to think of all the explanations that reduce these
experiences to nothing.
Because of the use and misuse of such phenomena,
another kind of tradition has arisen, in which it is not
considered all right for these signs to appear, in which it
is not all right to delight in them when they appear. And
that is equally false. Uncommon phenomenal signs inevitably
appear when the Spirit-Force is allowed to be active via the
devotee’s submission. These signs are also inevitable in the
case of an Adept. The taboos against their appearing and the
taboos against enjoying them, as well as the lust for them
on the part of people who are not converted no matter what
they see, are equally inevitable in the egoic world.
The remainder of the talk is copyrighted and Beezone
is unable to reprint it in its entirety. What follows
are central points in the talk along with a paragraph or two
from the talk itself.
Main Points –
1. Uncommon signs and experiences do
occur, which gives hope or temporary solutions.
2. But these occur in a
culture in which such (spiritual) experiences are taboo.
3. Or there is a lust for them, sought through drugs,
yoga, prayer, fasting, kundalini etc.
4. When people who are not
converted no matter what uncommon signs appear, they are
5. People always look for uncommon
6. This is because they are always full of
doubt and un-Happiness.
7. Experiences suggest a relief from
8. But witnessing the experiences of
their own and others they begin to think of
all the explanations that reduce these experiences to
9. There are genuine spiritual
experiences, but they are not the point.
10. The art of spiritual life is
granting attention, and following it with total submission, to
11. But, instead of following attention with
submission, people tend to get locked or bound to problematic
states of mind and body.
12. The art of spiritual life (once
you’ve HEARD and SEEN) is the ability to “re-devote” (FREE
ATTENTION) to the Living Spiritual Reality.
13. You must be able to OBSERVE how
attention is functioning.
Attention is moving toward forms and conditions,
and because the individual is tending to be in the
self-contracted state, attention is moving toward forms of
contraction. These forms of contraction are all the things
that bother you. The ego is bothered, contraction is a
bother, and attention is tending to move toward the weakest
point, the bother, the difficulty in the moment. However,
there is usually nothing in the environment or as immediate
as a physical pain to be bothered about.
The mind produces problematic conceptions. Attention
is always getting locked into these problem states, and thus
you are experiencing contraction, a problem, a limit. You do
not experience the Spiritual Reality, you are not whole, in
fact you are not even aware of the Spiritual Reality.
Thus, the art of spiritual life is to notice this
mechanical, contracted state and be wholly reoriented to the
Spiritual Reality through Remembrance. In other words, in
the midst of a mechanical state that is tending to take on
this contracted form, you must be able to merely notice it,
and rather than working to untie the knot, be reoriented
through devotion, as well as by being artfully responsible
for the mechanics of your activity.
14. Attention (in the gross and
subtle dimensions) is always moving towards forms of
contraction (objects, experiences).
15. Ego is disturbed and is tending to
move toward the weakest point of difficulty.
16. Pain, physical and emotional,
are the most common points of difficulty.
17. The mind produces problems and
gets locked into problematic states, limits.
18. You are not aware of Spiritual
19. The art of spiritual life is to
notice the mechanical (unconscious) contracted states and be
capable of “reorienting” through Remembrance and
20. You must be able to observe
whatever arises as a problematic (or apparently unproblematic) form and
be submitted and responsible – at the same time.
Last night I was talking about the mind,
how the mind itself is contraction. Unless the mind is
informed in the moment by spiritual consideration, it is a
form of contraction and attention is locked into that
contraction. People are constantly engaged in thinking,
thinking. Thinking is really a conversation you are having
with yourself. Speech is the same thing engaged with others.
That process is a meditation on contraction. The mind, is a
problem, it takes the form of a problem. You hope that
thinking will produce release from this contraction, this
problem. You are trying to get free of a knot, an oppressive
sense of existence. You are trying to think your way out of
it, trying to solve a problem, get an answer. And, of
course, occasionally the mind does let loose with some
relieving concept or other, but it always returns to these
contracted states, because the mind is about this
self-perpetuating disease. This disease is as much a lock on
attention as a cramp in the body. If you have pain in the
body, attention dwells on it very directly, or at least
subliminally. Thinking is pain of this kind. It is a
compression of the Living Conscious Force, a suppression of
it, a knot in it, a contraction of its field. Therefore this
perpetual thinking is pain.
21. The mind and attention are forms
of (one) contraction.
22. Unless the mind is “informed by
spiritual consideration” it is locked in its own
23. Thinking is a conversation with
24. Speech is thinking engaged with
25. Thinking is about looking for
solutions, inventions, and trying to solve
26. Thinking is about trying to free
yourself of this “knot”, an oppressive sense of
27. The mind is a question trying to
find an answer.
28. The mind is a self-perpetuating
29. This “knot” of mind and
attention is simultaneously in the body.
30. This knot is a compression of
the Living Conscious Force, a suppression, a contraction of
31. Perpetual thinking is
32. Instead of trying to “think”
your way out of this chronic pattern of mind you should
understand yourself, see what you’re up to.
33. You should divert and submit
your attention to the Living Reality.
34. The art of spiritual life is the
ability to relocate attention.
35. The is a directed way of
36. The common method of practicing
is based on the contraction itself, trying to relieve or
direct attention itself, not submission of
I was considering this cramp in the solar plexus
with you the other evening. We were having a conversation
about the yoga of the frontal line. Perhaps the most common
experience people have of contraction in this frontal line
is a cramp over the solar plexus, the “knot in the stomach”
that people refer to. If you become aware that you are
suffering this knot and this anxiety over the solar plexus,
your first resort, by tendency at any rate, will be to try
to relax it. You will take deep breaths and so forth. That
may work if the contraction is rather superficial and your
attention is relatively free, but you may also discover that
you cannot do it, that you cannot relax it. In that case,
you will begin to think some more and work on your trouble,
whereas the most direct way of dealing with it is to divert
attention from this knot, rather than keep attention in
the knot and try to undo it. I suggest to you, as a
practical matter, that instead of keeping your attention in
this knot over the solar plexus and trying to relax it you
should simply remember that attention goes wherever the knot
is. Attention gravitates toward the contracted states and
becomes fretful, suffers the pain of these contractions, gets
stuck in these contractions and then tries to work its way
out of them, you see.
37. The knot of the solar plexus is
a primary knot and people try to relax it by taking deep
breaths and so forth.
38. This may temporarily work if the
cramp is superficial.
39. But you will discover you cannot
40. This leads to more trouble,
41. Adi Da suggests, as a practical
matter, you should remember that attention goes wherever the
42. Attention gravitates toward
contracted states and objects.
43. This then creates an effort to
escape, or a strategy to work itself out.
44. The knot is a reversal of the
Current and it prevents the Current from going to its lower
45. One way of relieving this
contraction (in addition to your basic resort of devotional
practice) is to place your attention LOWER DOWN in the body,
below the point where you feel the cramp.
46. If you place your attention
above or at the cramp, the revulsion will
47. There is natural pleasure in the
body in the lower regions where the Current “leaks”
48. If you place your attention
below the cramp you will enjoy the capacity to submit to the
total bodymind in its Fullness.
49. This is conductivity.
50. Do not fasten attention to some
“point” or locus (object).
51. With this form of conductivity and
devotion, the practice becomes fruitful.
52. This same wisdom applies to
thinking and talking – where the “knot” is in the
53. Submit attention to the Living
Reality, the Living Current.
54. In this manner any thinking will
be informed with a spiritual communication.
55. Thinking has a practical and
abstract value but must be informed by the Living
56. Thinking coming out of the knots
is problematic and has to do with the search.
This is why I suggest that the first thing you do
when you get up in the morning is go to the meditation
place. When you do that, you enter into the sphere of
activities in the natural state, spiritually awakened,
whole, balanced. Your activity or expression is transformed
by that disposition. Of course, you must maintain that
disposition through the practical exercise of the Way
throughout the day, even turning aside to sit at some other
point during the day, and certainly in the evening again. In
this manner you develop the capacity for abiding in this
full, natural state, spiritually awake at all times, under
all conditions. When this realization, which is the essence
of real meditation, becomes full, uncaused, and natural or
inherent, then meditation has served its purpose.
57. The first thing you should do
when you get up in the morning is meditate.
58. From your meditation, you will be
59. From this “orientation” you can
go about your day spiritually awake, under ALL
60. Most thinking is problem-based
and trying to solve problems and make the situation
61. Thinking is
62. Thinking cannot make you
63. You are always obliged
to participate in Reality and to surrender and be
65. Reality is always ALREADY the
case. The body-mind arises in Reality.
66. Self-contraction makes you
discontinuous with Reality – in the full sense.
67. Instead of the effort of thinking,
surrender based on hearing and seeing
68. Submit and participate in
69. Submit – intellectually,
emotionally, and physically.
70. Submit through FEELING,
71. Do not stand back from life,
72. You are not participating in
life, you are reservedly armoring and defending
73. Bring yourself to my Argument so
it generates self-observation.
74. You are un-Happy and it is you
that is causing that.
True knowledge is not what you get as a result of
your contracted mental wanderings, it is what you realize
when you are, not thus contracted, What is directly obvious
when you are in this continuous state, this participatory
state, this true knowledge, and that is precisely what is
unknown in the contracted state. Therefore, only what is
known in the uncontracted state, and only the uncontracted
state continuous with that, is Happiness. Nothing else is
Happiness. To realize this is Wisdom, is hearing., And to be
thus submitted and to Realize what there is to be Realized
in submission, what simply Is, is seeing. To do all of this,
moment to moment, is practicing.
75. True knowledge comes when there
is NO contraction.
76. When you are in a free and
participatory state, uncontracted.
77. To realize this Wisdom is
78. This is a moment to moment
79. Primarily, practice is feeling
submission to whatever is already the case in this
81. This feeling submission carries
the body, attention, (and therefore the mind) along with
82. In that condition you become
aware of the Spiritual Reality.
83. In this submission there is a
good deal to observe about yourself.
84. That process is
85. That submission is
self-observation and self-observation is the capacity to be
feelingly submitted without self-contraction in every
86. In every moment, intuit the
Condition in which you exist and thus conduct the inherent
Radiance of the Living Reality.
87. It is simple to discuss this
matter, but discussing and Realizing are very
88. The ego will always try and take
the teaching and make it into a technique.
89. The technique will be a system of seemingly rational,
devotional, insightful practices.
90. You must develop the capacity to
practice based on hearing and seeing.
91. We are born to Realize the
Living Reality, this is the basic Principle of our birth, to realize that Reality.
92. The Demonstration of the
Spiritual Condition is beyond Enlightenment, and this is
what I teach.