Jed McKenna in Spiritual Enlightenment the Damnedest Thing, right at the end says you have to be crazy to want enlightenment, but if you do he suggests combining Spiritual Autolosis with fervent prayer.
Autolosis is THE BREAKDOWN OF TISSUE IN THE BODY (SELF-DIGESTION)
The process of Spiritual Autolosis it to start writing trying to define the truth by eliminating the false.
Start anywhere because it all leads to the same place. Who am I? is a somewhat traditional question to start with.
The prayer is for the courage to find and illuminate the false. Write Pray Write Pray etc.
So here goes (a start)
Who am I ?
There is no point in describing personal characteristics or history because characteristics change and history is just how it is remembered. Neither is the label of my name me, as i can change my name and still be me. (most married women change their name)
Am i my thoughts about myself? Well, considering that they change frequently (some times just because of a different mood - if i have success or failure etc) - scratch the mind as me.
What is left ?
Here is another question recommended by Jed.
What can i say is unequivocally true.
That i exist ? There is a mind/body and there is awareness of that mind/body.
Is that awareness the animating force of the body ? Does that animating force survive the death of the mind/body?
It certainly survives the death of the mind each night in deep sleep.
Some of my logic above is a little shaky or incomplete.
Why (for example) can't i be my mind just because it changes ?
If by my mind i mean the thoughts i have, then tell me this what thought can i have that doesn't instantly become memory? By the time i realise that i have thought something, the thought is finished. It no longer exists except as a memory of that thought.
But what thought actually happens as a thought?
i have thoughts that are verbal in nature and others that are visual and others that are movies with sound and others that are much more vague and are more of an impression of something than a description.
What did i start the previous sentence with ? It was "i have thoughts.."
It may only be language or convention to say that somebody is having something, implying ownership as well as doership. It is obvious that i am greater than my thoughts because i 'have' them.
The logic is often used that the eyes can't see themselves (without the help of a mirror, and even then they are not seeing themselves but only a reflection of themselves. To then jump to the logic of 'therefore it is also impossible for the mind to be aware of itself doesn't ring true for me. maybe the mind has the ability to (figuratively speaking) generate eyes on stalks that can turn back and see itself ???
Hmm, there is something smelly here.
This exercise is to expose the false but instead i am like the cop trying to prove a hunch right.
A lot of what i am saying is my take on what resonated with me as i read/viewed/heard it.
The following is something i have reasoned in the past and probably can be called a heartfelt belief.
i can only have beliefs. i can't actually know anything.
Even to say i exist is questionable. Try this on for size...
In a dream i believe i am real. My belief is as strong the belief i have now that i am awake and typing this. But how do i know that i am not dreaming this.
i can only know that i am dreaming this after i wake up.
i can't know that i am NOT dreaming this.
Wait a minute, when i was a kid i dreamt that i woke up and went to school then my mum woke me up and told me to get ready for school.
Logic tells me that it is feasible that if that happened in a dream then i might have been dreaming that i had a dream.
So you see, it is impossible to actually know anything.
Do i know this ? Obviously if the above is true and complete i can only believe this.
Even with this logic, it is always possible for somebody to come along and point out a flaw in this whole line of thinking.
So, on the assumption that i can't know anything, i can only talk from a position of believing...
A collection of beliefs constitute a story.
If i live by my beliefs, by my story, then i am not relating to reality but to my story.
Logic then says to relate to reality (we'll discuss what reality is in a moment) i have to have no beliefs.
It is easy to see how beliefs influence our idea of what something actually is.
Judgements are born of beliefs. We react to our judgements (likes/dislikes, good/bad etc)
If we are reacting to judgement we certainly aren't reacting to the actual.
So, how do we react to the actual (reality?)
Pain is actual but suffering because of the pain is an overlay that the mind adds to the pain. e.g. after cutting myself, i think "i might bleed to death" or "it might get infected" or "i shouldn't have
done that" or "i am stupid for doing that"
Relating to the actual would go something like this;
"There is pain, but not enough to take a pain killer. There is an open wound and some disinfectant will stop any possible infection. There is a lesson here about how i handled that knife - next time i use it i will be more careful"
The mental overlays come automatically because of habit. (which probably started from watching our parents or peers react that way)
The Zen koan, 'if a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody there then does it make a sound?'
is a good example.
An answer might be something like this (koans usually don't have any answer - just more questions) "It doesn't matter, i don't know if a sound was made. i do know that i didn't hear it so it isn't actual for me."
Just like the tree, the world is only actual when i interact with it. My thoughts about it are actual thoughts but not the actual world.
i don't know anything. i can only have beliefs. Beliefs are thoughts about...
So in order to relate to the actual i have to relate without thought?
Is this possible ?
i can't turn my thoughts off so that won't work for me, but i have experienced the situation where i see my thoughts before reaction takes place and i have a choice to ignore the thoughts because it is seen that they are habitual or conditioned thoughts and don't contribute to the actual situation i am relating to.
If i can't know anything and truth is what is left when all the falsities are removed, i might be in trouble.
Is the truth objectively true ? How do i know it to be true? (remember i can't know anything)
This suggests that i can't know what is true or false.
Like the sound of the tree falling, it doesn't matter to me what is true or false. i just need to see each situation clearly enough not to overlay it with my thoughts or emotions (emotions are reactions to thoughts - you might call them physical thoughts)