Become What You Are (Alan Watts)

A few excerpts from Alan Watts’ Become What You Are:

Though your thoughts may run into the past or the future they cannot escape the present moment.

A man does not really begin to be alive until he has lost himself, until he has released the anxious grasp which he normally holds upon his life, his property, his reputation and position.

The one important result of any serious attempt at self-renunciation or self-acceptance is the humiliating discovery that it is impossible. […] The people who have quite genuinely died to themselves make no claims of any kid to their own part in the process.

Our attempts to stand above (our) emotions and control them are the emotions themselves at play.

Your everyday mind is the Tao. Continue reading

Eternal Now


“The days and nights of Brahman are spread out in time in rather the same way as a ball of thread an inch in diameter is unrolled to the length of a hundred yards. Its real state resembles the ball but to be presented to the human mind it has to be unrolled. For our idea of time is spatial; it has length, which is a spatial dimension. But eternity has no length, and the nearest thing to it in our experience is what we call the present moment. It cannot be measured, but it is always here.” [More excerpts]

— Become What You Are (Alan Watts)

Like feeling warm or cold

“Don’t try to get rid of the ego-sensation. Take it, so long as it lasts, as a feature or play of the total process — like a cloud or wave, or like feeling warm or cold, or anything else that happens of itself. Getting rid of one’s ego is the last resort of invincible egoism! It simply confirms and strengthens the reality of the feeling. But when this feeling of separateness is approached and accepted like any other sensation, it evaporates like the mirage that it is.” — Alan Watts

Tao: The Watercourse Way

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at Mon, Sep 22, 2.13.57 PMExcerpts from Tao: The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts.

The Tao which can be spoken is not the eternal (or regular) Tao.

Our organisms have ways of intelligent understanding beyond words and conscious attention.

The supposition that knowing requires a knower is based on a linguistic and not an existential rule.

Alphabetic writing is a representation of sound. A sign for a sound which is the name of a thing.

Li is the pattern of behavior which comes about when one is in accord with the Tao, the watercourse of nature.

We and our surroundings are the process of a unified field, which is what the Chinese call Tao. #

Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.

It is the great and imaginary terror of Western man that nothingness will be the permanent end of the universe. We do not easily grasp the point that the void is creative, and that being comes from nonbeing as sound from silence and light from space.

I find it impossible to conceive any form whatsoever without the component of relatively empty space. […] I cannot get away from the sense that space and my awareness of the universe are the same.

How would you know that you are alive unless you had once been dead? How can one speak of reality or is-ness except in the context of the polar apprehension of void.

There is something in us which may be called upon for a higher wisdom than can be figured out by logic.

The nervous system can integrate more variables than the scanning process of conscious attention.

It is a matter of realizing that oneself and nature are one and the same process. […] The whole cosmos is implicit in every member of it, and every point in it may be regarded as its center.

There is no point in trying to suppress the babble of words and ideas that goes on in most adult brains, so if it won’t stop, let it go on as it will, and listen to it as if it were the sound of traffic or the clucking of hens. # Tao is just a name for whatever happens. […] Yet the Tao is most certainly the ultimate reality and energy of the universe, the Ground of being and nonbeing.

Tao cannot be defined in words and is not an idea or concept. #

Verbal description and definition may be compared to the latitudinal and longitudinal nets which we visualize upon the earth and heavens to define and enclose the positions of mountains and lakes, planets and stars. But earth and heaven are not cut by these imaginary strings.

It is basic to the Taoist view of the world that every thing-event is what it is only in relation to all others.

Nature has no “parts” except those which are distinguished by human systems of classification.

The Tao is the pattern of things, but not the enforced law. […] The universe is a harmony or symbiosis of patterns which cannot exist without each other.

Just as every point on the surface of a sphere may be seen as the center of the surface, so every organ of the body and every being in the cosmos may be seen as its center and ruler.

As the universe produces our consciousness, our consciousness evokes the universe.

The only single event is the universe itself.

Pantheism: The idea that the universe, considered as a mass of distinct things and events, is simply God by another name.

But if, as is the case, the Tao is simply inconceivable, what is the use of having the word and saying anything at all about it? Simply because we know intuitively that there is a dimension of ourselves and of nature which eludes us because it is too close, too general, and too all-embracing to be singled out as a particular object.

Taoists do not look upon meditation as “practice,” except in the sense that a doctor “practices” medicine. […] Meditate for the joy of meditation.

“You” cannot go along with “things” unless there is the understanding that there is, in truth, no alternative since you and the things are the same process — the non-streaming Tao. The feeling that there is a difference is also that process. There is nothing to do about it. There is nothing not to do about it. […] In realizing that you are the Tao, you automatically manifest its magic.

As a way of contemplation, (Tao) is being aware of life without thinking about it. #

To be anxious to survive is to wear oneself out. […] If, deep down inside, you want most desperately to survive and be in control of things, you cannot genuinely take the attitude of not worrying about it. You must allow yourself the freedom to worry — to let the mind think whatever it wants to think.”

Hebrew, Islamic, and Catholic scholastics, as well as Protestant fundamentalists, are like tourists who study guidebooks and maps instead of wandering freely and looking at the view.

True knowledge can be encompassed only by instinct and by actual experience.

This Is It

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at Tue, Jul 22, 8.50.16 AMExcerpts from This Is It: and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience by Alan Watts.

This — the immediate, everyday, and present experience— is IT, the entire and ultimate point for the existence of a universe. […] We use this simplest of words because we have no word for it.

The high ideals for which we are killing and regimenting each other are empty and abstract substitutes for the unheeded miracles that surround us— not only in the obvious wonders of nature but also in the overwhelmingly uncanny fact of mere existence.

Everything is as right as it can be. […] The universe, precisely as it is at this moment, as a whole and in every one of its parts, is so completely right as to need no explanation or justification beyond what it simply is.

It is usual for the individual to feel that the whole world has become his own body, and that whatever he is has not only become, but always has been, what everything else is.

The immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living.

The enlightenment or awakening is not the creation of a new state of affairs but the recognition of what always is.

Each thing, each event, each experience in its inescapable nowness and in all its own particular individuality was precisely what it should be, and so much so that it acquired a divine authority and originality.

Solving problems and coping with situations is by no means the only or even the chief business of life.

Nature is much more playful than purposeful, and the probability that it has no special goals for the future need not strike one as a defect.

The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them.

“Law of nonidentity” — “whatever you say a thing is, it isn’t.” […] (There is a world other than words) Words represent it, but if we want to know it directly we must do so by immediate sensory contact.

However much I may be impressed by the difference between a star and the dark space around it , I must not forget that I can see the two only in relation to each other, and that this relation is inseparable.

There are no such things as truths by themselves: a truth is always in relation to a point of view.

The price of intelligence as we now know it is chronic anxiety,

Imagine, a point of view, or perhaps a state of mind, which is experiential rather than intellectual— a kind of sensation rather than a set of ideas.

Let your mind alone ; let it think whatever it likes.

Thinker and thoughts are the same. […] When the dualism of thinker and thought disappears so does that of subject and object.

Man is not so much an organism in an environment as an organism-environment relationship.

Strictly speaking, there are no Zen masters because Zen has nothing to teach. […] the experience of awakening (satori) is not to be found by seeking,

One (can) not be right without also being wrong, because the two were as inseparable as back and front.

I believe that Zen appeals to many in the post-Christian West because it does not preach, moralize, and scold in the style of Hebrew-Christian prophetism.

Looking out into it at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations. Stars are by nature big and little, bright and dim. Yet the whole thing is a splendor and a marvel which sometimes makes our flesh creep with awe.

In Zen one does not feel guilty about dying, or being afraid, or disliking the heat.

The Hebrew-Christian universe is one in which moral urgency, the anxiety to be right, embraces and penetrates everything.

The appeal of Zen, as of other forms of Eastern philosophy, is that it unveils behind the urgent realm of good and evil a vast region of oneself about which there need be no guilt or recrimination, where at last the self is indistinguishable from God.

Zen is above all the liberation of the mind from conventional thought.

“Fundamentally not one thing exists.” Things are terms, not entities. They exist in the abstract world of thought, but not in the concrete world of nature .

Ego is (a) persona or social role, a somewhat arbitrary selection of experiences with which he has been taught to identify himself.