Lesson 12 – Meaning is optional
Some people have a hard time accepting the essential neutrality of life’s appearances, as they see it as the death of the validity of their drama, suffering, passion, and stories. In this regard, I guess I was different as a seeker. When I discovered that my stories did not affect reality—and that reality was, in fact, free and neutral—I could not have been more thrilled! Freedom from myself was the highest freedom I could think of. Bentinho Massaro
Lesson #12 will show you that your stories are optional, self-made, meaning-based projections that you have learned to automatically place on top of the essentially neutral appearances of life. You will learn to see through the illusion of the person’s conditioned responses to events, and liberate yourself from story-based identity!
The Person Thrives on Meaning
Note: I will be using the word “appearance” a lot in this lesson.
An appearance is Presence in form; anything that has an identifiable form can be called an appearance. Anything that shows up in your experience—in your Consciousness—is an appearance.
It can be a thought, an emotion, a feeling, a story, a belief, your body, a love affair, an event, an accident, a paradox, simple physical objects, or literally anything else that takes up presence.
The word “appearance” implies that something appears inside of Presence-Consciousness—as part of the field of Presence-Energy.
The more clearly you see that meaning is optional, not inherent, in any event or appearance, the more freedom you will find from the majority of your personal, story-based drama.
After all, in order to psychologically suffer about your person, you need to believe that the events you have encountered in your life were filled with inherent meaning and that you were a victim of the meanings attached to these events.
We never actually fear an event; we fear that an event means something we don’t like. When you discover that the meaning of things is up to you, fear about events can be very quickly eliminated.
And what is not an event?
Even your own death is an event that can mean whatever you want it to mean. You don’t fear death; you fear what it means. But what it means is up to you, so why fear it? Neutralize the meaning you’ve previously given to your death by seeing that the event itself does not include that meaning.
Question: When do you feel most intensely drawn into the sense that you are a separate person inside of a world?
When an appearance triggers you.
What gets triggered exactly?
The meaning you’ve learned to give to appearances. In other words: what you have learned to believe is true about the appearance.
Something happens (something appears).
Your body-mind complex reacts with a bunch of feelings and thoughts about what just happened.
The truth usually overlooked here is that you don’t actually feel the thing that happened; you feel your reaction to what happened.
The reaction feels good or bad, depending on whether the meaning (the belief) you give to that happening is rooted in lack (it feels negative, frightening) or in abundance (it feels positive, exciting).
In other words: we only ever experience our state of being, our energetic response (thoughts, emotions, beliefs, points of view) to appearances. It is structurally impossible for us to experience an actual circumstance or physical matter. This fact will become naturally clearer in Enlightenment II and Empowerment I.
You cannot feel something that you have not given at least some kind of meaning to. This makes sense if you consider that, if you truly only ever experience your state of being, then things cannot make you feel anything, unless you believe something about that thing.
So, it is our own set of definitions and meanings that give us the experience of life. Life’s appearances are essentially neutral, or open to interpretation.
While you were reading the last few paragraphs above, did you feel concerned with the well-being of the doorknob closest to you?
Did the chair you’re sitting on psychologically traumatize you?
Did the food being digested in your belly trigger a strong emotion?
The answer to the above three questions is probably “no.”
Why did these things—which were “happening” equally as much as you reading this text—not trigger a personalized (mental and emotional) response?
Because you have not given strong meaning, or any meaning, to the doorknob, the chair you’re sitting on, or the food being digested in your belly as we speak.
None of these things caught your attention because you did not believe they were important at this time. You have not defined them—given them meaning—in a strong and personalized way. You do not immediately believe your existence (your identity) is dependent, or at stake, based on what’s going on with these things.
Detailed Example – Analysis of the Process of Meaning-Based Reactions
Imagine you’re sitting in a train, near a window.
You don’t really have anything to do, so you’re just relaxing, looking around, observing the life around you inside the train.
You feel peaceful, neutral, and even a little bit free (light and joyful), for no reason. There is no emotional charge in your experience at this time.
Then, an abnormally tall person enters your car of the train. Through the glass door, you watch him grab the car doorknob, twist it, open the door, and make his way down the aisle, passing you by.
You are fascinated by the sheer height of this person, and imagine for a moment what it would be like to be so tall that you have to bend over as you walk through the aisle of a train.
About 10 seconds after having this thought, you feel as peacefully neutral and unoccupied as you did before; you are just enjoying your observation of the moment again.
Then suddenly, you see an extreme car crash happen right outside your window.
You are in instant shock!
For a moment, you don’t know what to think, because this is a new experience. You don’t have a set protocol for this yet; this is the first time you’re witnessing a car crash of this magnitude.
You are rapidly searching your subconscious database for the proper meaning to apply to this appearance, so you can feel something more precise about it.
After the first couple of blank seconds of awe and shock—not knowing exactly what meaning to give to the appearance you just saw, and not sure what you want to (or should?) feel about it—you start thinking about the people inside the vehicles. You feel terrible for them, seeing how crunched up their cars are. You fear for their lives. You feel uncomfortable; your body is jittery, shaky, and feels like it suddenly lost 90% of its energy reserves—as if you hadn’t had anything to eat for four days.
For the next two to three hours or so, you feel moderately to intensely shocked by the occurrence, and you find that your mind is occupied with the whole scene and everything associated with it.
You keep replaying what you saw, thinking about it from different points of view. You are taking this opportunity to crystallize your set of definitions about what such an occurrence means, and this will dictate how you will respond to such an event in the future, should it ever appear to you again.
Even when you get home and lie down in bed, with no car crash happening in your immediate vicinity, all you can think about is the accident you witnessed.
A billion other things have happened since then, but you’ve hardly noticed any of them. You were entirely occupied with the accident.
What happened here? Let’s deconstruct the above example for a moment, by isolating four points of interest:
- You felt peaceful, neutral, even a little bit free, for no reason. Nothing in particular stood out to you as extremely negative or positive. There was stability in your consciousness. No hidden meanings got triggered.
- You noticed an abnormally tall person. You had some unconscious meaning regarding this appearance; otherwise you would not have even noticed or emphasized that the person was abnormally tall.
You were fascinated by this appearance for a minute or so, exploring what it would be like to be this person. You explored this because you believed something about being tall offering a different type of experience. It stood out in your definitions as “different from normal.”
You had defined being this tall as an unusual thing that therefore deserved more of your attention than the clouds in the sky, which were also present at the same time, but went unnoticed because the meaning you gave to them was not as strong as your idea about the abnormally tall person.
“Unusually tall” is a meaning. The appearance of the tall person triggered the meaning you had given it, and this, in turn, triggered feelings and thoughts about the essentially neutral appearance of the “tall” person.
You did not actually experience this person; you merely experienced your own reactions to your own beliefs about this person.
That being said, your definitions about the tall person were not strong or biased enough to keep you occupied with the appearance for longer than 10 seconds or so. It wasn’t a meaning regarding a life or death situation. It didn’t require you to defend yourself or ensure your existence in any way.
So, you returned to your naturally peaceful state after a few moments of processing your definitions about the person.
- The fact that he grabbed the doorknob before entering didn’t leave a single trace of feeling, neither fear nor excitement, in your being. It left you absolutely neutral. You hardly noticed it, if at all. You considered it a random, unimportant event. You have no beliefs about it.
It didn’t stand out to you because you had given no meaning to it. It was not labeled as “worthy of extra attention.”
- The car accident happened and you discovered you have a strongly charged meaning applied to “car crash,” or to the things you believe it implies.
It triggered all your associated beliefs about what an extreme car crash means: ideas regarding life and death, your own potential death, the fragility of your life and the lives of your loved ones, how you can keep each other safe, what you truly desire to do with the time you have left, how terrible it was for the people in the crash, what their loved ones must be going through, etc.
The accident—which is inherently nothing but a neutral bunch of molecules dancing around in certain patterns, unharmed and ecstatic like all of Presence-Energy—set off a series of beliefs that, just a moment ago, were completely dormant, unconscious, and inactive.
You were feeling traceless and peaceful one second, and the next second, you felt disturbed and intensely activated (reacting to your own beliefs about the occurrence) for hours afterwards.
Our Beliefs Determine Where Our Attention Goes
My point with this example is that a million things happened within the time-and-space frame of sitting in the train for a couple of hours and then going home: the wind was animating the grass, billions of air molecules were entering and exiting your lungs, the person three rows behind you was listening to a new album he just downloaded, the wound on your knee was slowly healing, the light of the sun was playing with your skin, the doorknob was being touched, and so on.
But you only noticed the things you had charged beliefs about, and you only felt your reactions to them, not the happenings themselves.
Your Attention Is Highly Selective
Your attention goes to the things you believe mean the most in any given moment.
Therefore, a “boring” moment, in reality, is simply a fully alive moment in which just as much is going on in existence as when you are skydiving; but nothing is happening that you have applied any interesting meanings to. In a “boring moment,” none of the appearances creating your reality trigger your lack beliefs (frightening) or your abundance beliefs (exciting).
In other words: you are the boring one, not Existence.
Bottom-line: Beliefs dictate how you feel, and where your attention goes, as well as what you decide is valuable and worthy of your time and energy—and what is not.
When we learn to line up what we believe serves us, with what actually serves us, our energy is in greater alignment with our true Self, and as a result, we stop attracting conflicting patterns. Instead, we attract a life with more love-light-clarity, that flows more freely, and simply feels better all around. Empowerment I will help you become more aware of this and will give you the tools you need to transform this behavior. I sometimes refer to this as “un-mixing your frequencies.”
Two Simple Methods for Neutralizing Charged Meanings
Method One: Don’t React
With any event that triggers a charged reaction in your body-mind, you can either reinforce and further strengthen the meaning you’ve already given to that occurrence (this is what most people unconsciously do), or you can neutralize the charge—naturally—by letting the thoughts and emotions run as wild as they want to, but without engaging in them, without believing in them, and without giving them any more meaning.
Simply rest in the changeless stability of the all-inclusive Now…
This is not to say you should suppress your beliefs and feelings; it simply means you should emphasize Presence-Consciousness as your primary identity—allowing you to give free reign to the body-mind’s reactions, without feeling like it requires your engagement or identification.
While you’re resting in Presence-Consciousness—which you’re somewhat used to by now—notice that the thoughts and emotions that arise are simply appearances that appear and disappear, without leaving an actual trace in the moment (unless you apply meaning to them).
You neutralize the charge, to a large degree, every time you don’t react to your reactions. Simply rest, instead. Just Be. I AM.
This practice of not reacting, but remaining centered on Beingness, will naturally assist you in shifting your sense of identity from I-AM-This to pure I-AM.
Method 2: Recognize the Inherent Meaninglessness in Things
Another way to cut through the identification with your person’s reactions is by recognizing that the actual event itself was completely neutral and meaningless to begin with.
The happening did not give itself any meaning—you did.
The car crash didn’t open its mouth and say, “This is a terrible thing that should not have happened.” You said that. Own this truth. Right now. Forever. For the sake of your own happiness, clarity, enlightenment, and empowerment.
When reactions arise, simply turn your attention to the presence of the event itself (as we explored in Lesson 3: Everything Has Presence), rather than believing in your thoughts about it. See if you can find any inherent meaning in the event—any inherent drama—in the actual presence of the event-appearance.
You will find that no inherent meaning exists in anything; it is simply something optional and malleable you choose to give to an appearance.
It is whatever you say it is, 24/7. Bentinho Massaro
In the Empowerment teaching, I will show you the power and value of this in creating your dream-life in accordance with your true Heart. In the Enlightenment teaching, however, all you really need to know about meaning is that it is not inherently present in anything; you put it there. Therefore, meaning is optional. Which leads us to something amazingly simple, yet profound:
Your psychological suffering is optional, too (and largely unnecessary).
We just discovered:
- Suffering comes from our mis-aligned meanings and definitions.
- Meanings and definitions are optional, and are not inherent in events or appearances. Therefore:
- Suffering is optional; it is not inherent in events and appearances.
Imagine You Were Raised on a Different Planet
To further clarify and illustrate the point that nothing contains inherent meaning, imagine you were raised on a different planet, with entirely different values and meanings. You are visiting Earth for a few weeks.
On your planet—where you were originally brought up—car crashes are worshipped as the bravest, most honorable way to pass on to the afterlife.
No one on your home planet believes death is real. They see physical life as a temporary game taking place inside of their consciousness, and they can choose to play with it for a while. But your civilization knows that Consciousness cannot die; it can only change the way it experiences itself.
Nothing is lost upon the death of the body. This is their conviction. This is their understanding. This is their truth, their context.
Everyone on this planet lives for that perfect moment in which they can choose to die in a spectacular car crash. Any time a spectacular car crash happens, those who witness it cheer and are super happy for those who decided to free themselves from the limitations of the physical body, by way of a spectacular vehicular crash.
Books are written about the most spectacular car crashes in the history of that civilization, and the beings who were involved. From an early age, kids learn to idolize these beings as heroes.
If this had been the meaning you had learned to give to a spectacular car crash (referring to the earlier scenario of being in the train, witnessing a car crash outside your window), you would have jumped up from your seat in joy and excitement; you would have applauded and felt happiness, awe, appreciation, and gratitude when the “accident” happened, right outside your window.
You would have had a big, genuine smile on your face, from ear to ear, with absolutely no sense of “I am a jerk for enjoying myself right now.”
You see, the same moment can be viewed from an infinite number of different angles. Not any one of them is inherently better, more truthful, or more valid than another. It is up to you to choose your preferred—your most aligned—point of view.
Every appearance is essentially neutral and meaningless. You are here to provide the story. You are here to define the experience in whatever way you see fit. You have this freedom as your birthright. In fact, in many ways, that is why you are here.
You are here as a co-creator in this way, so you can expand upon Creation’s constant self-expansion, and forge new relationships from itself with itself, by means of defining things differently, seeing them through new eyes every time.
However, the purpose of this lesson is not to learn how to co-create, redefine, and transform experiences; that will be addressed in the Empowerment teaching. The purpose of this lesson is to show you the simple universal fact that events and appearances do not have inherent meaning.
There is no inherent meaning in anything. Really get this right now…
When you see this, it dissolves 95% of your attachment to your personality’s contents: stories, beliefs, ideas, and labels. Taking yourself seriously becomes less and less of an option, which in turn, makes you feel lighter and lighter!
You’re gaining freedom from yourself.
You are transcending your person-identification, because the person thrives on believing that meaning actually exists inherently in things. This gives one the right to believe in the drama as “real” and to place the cause of one’s state of being always outside of oneself—to complain, feel like a victim of events, and so on.
Believing that meaning actually exists in things, and not owning the fact that it is you who chooses the flavor of the drama—through selecting the meanings you wish to apply to appearances—is one of the most effective ways to slow down the acceleration of your journey, and add to your overall sense of victimization.
It is hard to believe in your person’s rather un-evolved stories when you see so clearly that they are all made-up tales of biased perception: optional points of view of inherently neutral circumstances.
Stories are perfectly fine as such—they consist of Presence-Love-Energy, after all—but they are not something for you to be identified with and feel limited to or defined by.
When you see that every moment is essentially neutral, story-less, meaningless, effortless, and undefined—without charge—you can start to experience greater and greater peace and stability, even during events you would previously have called “intense experiences.”
Choose your perspective of each event
Same car crash—two totally different experiences of it.
First of all, what makes you think the experience of it being terrible is more valid than the experience of it being amazingly beautiful and entertaining?
There really is no proof, in the actual appearance, that the car crash is any more terrible than it is joyful. If we’re honest, there is no objective authority telling us whether it was tragic or funny. We decided that—as a collective. We have agreed upon certain ideologies—what is true about what, and in which circumstances.
Nothing but arrogance would cause one to think it is more valid to believe a car crash is terrible, than to feel it is a joyful occurrence. There is actually no inherent kindness or humility in believing a car crash is terrible and should be feared and “respected” with a heavy tone.
Arrogance, and the fear of standing out in society’s fearful, judgmental little eyes, is what prevents us—when those types of events appear—from changing our perception to a version that is in closer alignment with the truth of our being.
After all, you wouldn’t want to be caught by your peers cheering—delightfully happy—for those who just died in a car crash, would you?
But why not?
People would think you’re a monster. But only because they are unconscious of the meaninglessness of appearances, and still innocently (unconsciously) think that what they believe must be believed by everyone else.
If everyone truly understood this, not as a foreign idea or possibility, but as an embodied realization, we could all let each other off the leash of societal expectations and peer pressure. We could stop monitoring how other people think, believe, and live their lives. And we could do this peacefully.
Some of the clearest examples of this (unconscious) ridiculously arrogant behavior can be found in small towns with limited exposure to modern ways or international influences. Spending some time in religiously-oriented towns, or villages stuck in previous-generation ways, can provide hilarious views of the keen interest residents take in the behavior and beliefs of every single one of their neighbors.
People in our civilization generally, at this stage in their evolution, don’t see that they have choice as to how to perceive events. They believe the car crash inherently implies something terrible just happened, and therefore, they should show respect for that terrible event by feeling sad, praying, or expressing terror and shock.
It’s a ridiculous choice, considering there are so many choices to select from, but it has become our consensus reality because we have so many fears and misunderstandings regarding life and death, acceptance and rejection, love and fear.
I have found that exemplifying freedom too radically (like, smiling at a car crash) simply goes over people’s heads; they won’t be able to understand it. They cannot yet comprehend how this could be a genuine, loving, compassionate, wise response to an event.
If you take it too fast for people, the potential appeal they might feel towards the freedom you exhibit is replaced by shocked dislike and rejection. This then becomes, in a sense, a missed opportunity for a greater communion of understanding between you—the empowered being—and the people of the old paradigm of victimization.
Now, while I do recommend you—at the very minimum—realize that meaning is optional, never a given, I don’t necessarily recommend going 180 degrees in the opposite direction of society’s beliefs, stepping on everyone’s toes all the time, just because you have the freedom to do so.
With the realization that “meaning doesn’t inherently exist” at the heart of your experience, you can carry that truth as gracefully or radically towards your peers as you feel authentically inspired to.
Respecting Other People’s Meaning-Prisons
Overall, I would advise you to respect people’s beliefs and their ignorance regarding the inherent meaninglessness of experiences, and be an example of greater “freedom of meaning” gradually.
This will help avoid situations where you could have been perceived as graceful and inspirational, giving people something higher to embody for themselves (now that they have seen an example in you), but, instead, you were perceived as blunt and crazy, because you took your freedom too far for them to relate to.
Trust me, I speak from many personal experiences in this regard.
Deconstructing and disposing of the old, and establishing the new, are crucial parts of my theme, and perhaps yours, too, but if you take this too fast, and play it too radically, the collective that you are attempting to lead into the light by example will simply get angry and potentially desire to restrain you in some way.
Remember, a few hundred years ago (and, in some areas of the world, even today), you could be killed for displaying that you had achieved freedom from the meanings that those around you still felt obligated to believe in.
Not that this should stop you from being authentically you; I just mention it to offer some perspective on where the world is at today: although it is largely ready for change, our civilization is still young and immature in many ways. So, be as bold as you desire to be, yet balance that out a bit by taking it easy on them, OK?
Shifting an individual’s consciousness can happen abruptly, but evolving a collective’s consciousness usually takes some patience, respect, understanding, and time. But it is happening collectively, now. And fast, too.
You chose a good time to be who you are, and to do what you are doing.
Ultimately, how you address this contradiction between the meaninglessness of appearances on the one hand—and on the other hand, the society, family, and friends around you who believe inherent meaning exists in every appearance—is up to your own wisdom and joy.
There is no guidebook written for this, and there cannot be, because every situation needs a special approach.
Intuition should guide you as often as you can recognize its counsel.
Read this lesson’s text (or listen to its audio) at least once more before you start your next lesson.
Experiment with noticing the meaninglessness of appearances, by tuning into their actual presence and ignoring your reactions to them in your everyday life, as often as you can. Make it your “day job,” your main focus for the next few days, to see through the misperception that meaning exists inherent in events and appearances, and see instead that the only meaning-giver in your reality is you, baby.
Be brave enough to admit this and reclaim your power to not have to believe in your reactions and conclusions about appearances anymore. Instead, you can remain undisturbed by appearances—unmoved, unaffected. Rest in the Presence of your Beingness while your mind releases its pre-conditioned responses to appearances. Choose—prioritize—and emphasize the clarity of being, the presence of Now, over your definitions, and wake up to the inherent neutrality, aliveness, and “sameness” of each and every experience.
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