Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Awakening Stories For Life 4
First person: "A still mind is like a still
Author Unknown (with gratitude to NondualitySalon@yahoogroups.com)
did any of your students ever became enlightened?"
Sufi story collected by Idries Shah
One day the Master announced that a young monk had
reached an advanced state of enlightenment. The news caused some stir. Some of
the monks went to see the young monk. "We heard you are enlightened. Is that
true?" they asked.
A visitor asked sage Ramana Maharishi whether he was the manifestation of God. Ramana did not respond. Asking a slew of further questions in a debating fashion, Ramana remaining completely unperturbed and abided in serenity, only one time answering, "So you say." After the visitor answered his own questions and left, Ramana continued to dwell in silence. Nearby devotees were disturbed with how the visitor treated Ramana and asked him, "Why?" Ramana commented to nearby devotees something to the effect that with such people, silence was the great weapon.
The Lost Necklace
...No special effort is necessary to realize the Self. All efforts are for eliminating the present obscuration of the Truth. A lady is wearing a necklace around her neck. She forgets it, imagines it to be lost and impulsively looks for it here, there and everywhere. Not finding it, she asks her friends if they found it anywhere, until one kind friend points to her neck and tells her to feel the necklace around her neck. The seeker does so and feels happy that the necklace is found. Again, when she meets other friends, they ask her if her lost necklace was found. She says, "yes" to them, as if it were lost and later recovered. Her happiness at re-discovering it round her neck is the same as if some lost property was recovered. In fact, she never lost it nor recovered it. And yet she was once miserable and now she is happy. So also with the Realization of the Self.
of my teachers was approached by a seeker who said: "I want liberation!"
The Birth of Ego
Kristopher Raphael (Permission granted by author to share this metaphorical story)
Here is a story about the birth of ego.
It was long ago, the sun had only made one cycle around the Source Star. At that time the one Over Soul was playing with physicality, dreaming pieces of itself into Human bodies. It first extended itself and dreamed a human being into the earth-life-system. It started with one human and then dreamed another. This was fun, moving down from oneness into individual bodies. Individual bodies were new experiences for the Over Soul.
When one human being would meet another on
earth they knew they were the same, just extensions of the same Soul. They greeted
one another as themselves. "Hello, me," one would say to the other.
As the Over Soul was playing with its extensions into physicality an idea was created, "This is so much fun. What new experiences I am having. What if I took individuality even further, beyond the physical body. What if each extension of me pretended not to be me? That would be even more fun!" However, the Over Soul was not capable of pretending, so it created another body that was capable of pretending, and called it the ego. Through the ego, individuality became possible.
Now when each human being greeted one another they pretended they were not from the same source as the other. They greeted one another with, "Hi you who are not me." As this repeated and more human beings were born, pretending to not be from the same source. Individuality had a purpose. Because of individuality the Over Soul was able to work out different aspects it needed to in physicality in different bodies. It was a wonderful plan.
However, something began to go wrong. As the ego grew stronger soon the human beings forgot that they were pretending. They forgot that they were connected, part of the same One. The ego took on a life of its own and began to grow. Soon, due to domination of the ego, the gift of Individuality turned into the curse of separation.
Author Kristopher Raphael observes, "When we pretend to be something we are not, ego is born." He understands ego as synonymous with highly inflated self-importance. He sees the ego as embodying pretension, that is a "false claim," in terms of falsely trying to mimic or pretend to be the true Self and Love, creating only oppressive control and co-dependence. Like peeling away the layers off an onion, we can dismantle the ego through peeling the layers of ego, illusion and ignorance to fully inhabit the Self. Like peeling the leaves of an artichoke and biting the nourishment off each before discarding it, we can whittle the ego away leaving only the heart that only knows how to speak the Truth and now we are prepared and receptive to fully listen. The ego cannot directly experience the present or Oneness; it can only mimic and imitate spirituality without authenticity.
Ice Cream Koan
A Zen Koan
The pupil, Roshan, sought enlightenment from Zen master Ishi, but was impatient and asked the master daily when his goal would be attained. Instead of answering, Ishi asked his student whether he would like a some ice cream.
"Yes, master," replied Roshan. "Then I will give you none," said Ishi and instead gave the treat to another student who had not requested any.
"You see, Roshan," said the Master, "if you want ice cream, you shan't have any, and if you desire it not, you will receive it."
The students of Tibetan Buddhist Kalu Rimpoche and Providence Zen Center founder Seung Sahn arranged for them to meet and engage in dialogue. When Seung Sahn arrived, he picked up an orange, held it in front of Kalu Rimpoche, and asked: "What is this?"
The students awaited an insightful reply, illuminating the nature of reality, but Kalu Rimpoche looked stumped.
Seung Sahn repeated his question with greater emphasis, but Kalu Rimpoche had no answer.
Seung Sahn put forth the question a third time.
Finally Kalu Rimpoche responded, "It seems that Seung Sahn has never seen an orange before."
One day Chuang-tzu and a friend were walking along a riverbank. "How delightfully the fishes are enjoying themselves in the water!", Chuang-tzu exclaimed.
"You are not a fish," his friend said. "How do you know whether or not the fishes are enjoying themselves?"
"You are not me," Chuang-tzu said. "How do you know that I do not know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?"
A Zen story
A disciple lived for a time with Zen master Kassan. But feeling that the teachings did not suit him, the disciple decided to go on a pilgrimage. But everywhere he went, the disciple only heard praise for how Master Kassan was the best of teachers. Finally the disciple returned, and when he greeted his old master he said, "Why did you not reveal your profound understanding of the dharma?"
The master smiled, and replied: "When you cooked rice, did I not light the fire? When you served food, did I not hold out my bowl? How have I failed you?" At this the disciple was enlightened.
A Zen Mondo
Nothing To Give
John Daido Loori remembers once giving Maezumi Roshi a birthday gift. Maezumi thanked him, saying, "I am sorry I have nothing to give you."
"But Roshi," Loori responded, "You give me so much!"
With that Maezumi wheeled and walked away. Without realizing it, Loori had insulted him. A true Zen teacher has nothing to give.
A student from another Zen center attended a week-long retreat with Kobun Chino Roshi and, having been very struck by his presence and teaching style, was feeling confused about whom to study with.
"I already have a teacher," she told him during an interview, "but I feel a quality of connectedness with you that I've never felt before. What should I do?"
Kobun looked at her. "When the last teacher on earth is gone," he asked, "who will be your teacher?"
The student didn't know how to reply "Everything," she answered finally.
"No," he said. "It will be you."
Is It Me?
A Sufi story collected by Indries Shah
went into a bank with a cheque to cash.
It's Up To You
A retold Sufi tale
In another age, in another time, long, long ago, there lived two neighboring kings. One was wise, generous and kind, the other ignorant, greedy and envious. The envious king dreamed up a way to humiliate his neighboring king. He would put a partridge cupped in his hands and ask whether it was alive or dead. If the fellow king answered that it was alive, he would kill it and show the bloody remains. If the king replied that it was dead, he would open his hands and let the partridge fly away. Either way the wise king would be humiliated.
So on the appointed day of their meeting, the envious king presented the wise king his cupped hands and asked if the bird within was alive or dead. The benevolent king pondered the situation and knew the other king for just what he was. After a few minutes the wise king wryly smiled and gently spoke, "The answer is in your hands."
Vow of Silence
An aspiring Yogi wanted to find a Guru. He went to an Ashram and his preceptor told him: "You can stay here but we have one important rule-all students observe a vow of silence. You will be allowed to speak one sentence only after 12 years."
After practicing for 12 long years, the day came when the student could say his one sentence. He said: "The bed is too hard."
He kept going for another 12 years of hard spiritual practices and austere discipline; then came his opportunity to speak again. He commented: "The food is not very good."
Twelve more years of hard work and he got the chance to speak once again. This time, after 36 years of practice, he announced: "I quit."
His Guru retorted: "Good! all you've done the whole time is complain, complain, complain."
"What's the point of all of this? What difference does it make? I'm happy as I am." A person asked questions in this vein regarding the value of myth, symbols and the soul's journey to the great mythologist Joseph Campbell.
Campbell reportedly replied, "Dogs are happy creatures without knowing any of these matters. We as human beings can aspire to far more. If you don't mind being happy as a dog, then fine. Of course that's only a dog's life."
Do You Know Who I Am?
A Sufi story collected by Indries Shah
"(There is) a story about a well known and self-important actor, who after retiring joined an exclusive old folks home. He walked in the lobby, looking at his new companions, and to his dismay did not draw any special attention.
Eventually he approached a nice old lady, who looked at him with a smile, and asked her, full of hope: "Do you know who I am?"
"No" replied the lady politely, "but if you'll ask at the reception, they will tell you."
A Riddle: The incredible, priceless value of
What doeth man love more than life, hate more than death or mortal strife? 'Tis that which contented men desire, the poor possess and the rich require, the miser spends, the spendthrift saves, and all men carry to their graves? [Nothing!]
A peasant was walking in the forest when St. Philip rode up and said, "If you can recite the Lord's Prayer straight through without stopping, I'll give you this horse." The peasant said, "Wonderful...Our Father who art in heaven Hallowed be thy... say, does that include the saddle?"
Exactly Equal [or Two Russian Bears Consult A Fox]
Two Russian bears in the woods came across a wheel of cheese. Breaking it in half, each wanted the bigger half. They went to a fox to help arbitrate who would get the bigger half. The fox studied the situation carefully and pronounced that it would only be fair if the halves were the very same size. The bears agreed to the fox's thought. So the fox took a bite out of the bigger half to make them equal. Yet in doing this, now the other half was bigger. So the fox took a bite out of the other half to make them the same size. It went back and forth like this for a long time until the two pieces of cheese were absolutely identical. The two pieces of cheese were now exactly equal, but they were now only one-tenth the size of the original halves. The fox gave the two identical pieces of cheese to the Russian bears. The bears were very happy, ate the cheese, and went on their way.
Moral: What happens when you hand over your life over to your ego? Of course, you have your ego's version of your life, instead of your life.
During my second month of nursing school our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had a breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: 'What is the name of the woman who cleans the school?' Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. 'Absolutely,' said the professor. 'In your careers you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.' I have never forgotten that lesson.
JoAnn C. Jones
Mulla Nasrudin used to carry a door with him wherever he went. When somebody asked him about it, he replied: ''It is just a security measure. Nobody can enter my house except through the door. So I carry the door.''
A Russian Folk Tale
Once there were two brothers. One was rich, and one was poor-so poor he had only one horse to plow his field, and that one died. In desperation he asked his rich brother to lend him a horse for just one day. At first his brother refused, but the poor brother pleaded until he relented.
The poor brother went to the rich brother's field to find a horse. There he saw a strong man plowing his brother's field. "Who are you?" asked the poor man.
"I am your brother's Good Luck," said the strong man. "I make sure our brother prospers."
"What about my Good Luck?" asked the poor man.
"There is your Good Luck," said the strong man, pointing to a little toothpick of a lad sleeping underneath a tree. The poor man woke him up with a hard pinch. The poor man's Good Luck refused to plow the fields like the rich man's Good Luck. "But here's what I can do," he said. "I'll help you to engage in trade."
So after discussing things with Good Luck, the poor brother and his family packed their things and set off for town. As they were packing, they heard the sound of weeping. It was Bad Luck, crying because he was being left behind. The poor brother told Bad Luck he could come to town only if he jumped into an old sack. The trick worked and the poor brother dug a hole beside his old hut and buried the bag.
Once in town, according to the plan, the poor brother sold his wife's old dress for a small sum. With that he bought one a little better, which he sold for a little more. And so it went until, gradually, the poor man became rich.
In time his rich brother heard the news and came to town to see for himself. Indeed, he saw that his formerly poor brother was now richer than he.
"Your family was starving!" he said. "How did you get rich?"
"I put Bad Luck in a bag and buried it," said the newly rich brother, laughing beside the old hut.
The rich brother quickly said good-bye and started home. On the way, his heart grew bitter with jealousy and spite. He went straight to his brother's old hut and dug up the bag. He untied the knot and set Bad Luck free.
"Go find my brother," he cried. "Take his wealth!"
"Oh, no!" said Bad Luck. "I'd rather stay with you."
From The Good Luck Book, Stefan Bechtel & Laurence Roy Stains, 1997
One day, an employee of a refrigeration company was accidentally locked up in the ice chamber of a freight train with a temperature of forty degrees below zero. No one heard his shouts for help. He was absolutely terrified and left a record of his suffering scribbled on the walls of the wagon. Significantly, his death was due not to exposure to subzero temperature but sheer fright, because on that day the refrigeration was not switched on. Such is the fate of those who allow their thoughts to be imprisoned in a cold, dark chamber.
Sri Amanda Acharya, Yoga of Conquest, 1971
A man, traveling through a forest, is ambushed by robbers and shot with a poisoned arrow. Fortunately, friends discover him quite quickly before the poison has taken effect and he is able to explain what had happened. The friends are anxious to send for help quickly so that an antidote can be given. But the man insists on asking them about his assailant and telling them that they must make further enquiries and begin a search to find the robbers. His friends try in vain to convince him that these questions can all wait, that the important thing is to remove the arrow and treat the effects of the poison. But the man persists with his questions and entreaties and, ultimately, the delay costs him his life.
Why Are You Riding Your Bicycles?
A Zen Parable
A Zen Teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, "Why are you riding your bicycles?"
The first student replied, "The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!" The teacher praised the student, saying, "You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do
The second student replied, "I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path." The teacher commended the student, "Your eyes are open and you see the world."
The third student replied, "When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, "Nam myoho renge kyo." The teacher gave praise to the third student, "Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel."
The fourth student answered, "Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings." The teacher was pleased and said, "You are riding on the golden path of non-harming."
The fifth student replied, "I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle." The teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, "I am your disciple."
How We Know When Night Has Ended
A Hasidic Teaching Tale
A wise old Rabbi gathered his students around him. In a hushed, kindly and authoritative tone he quietly asked, "How do we know when night has ended and the morning began, the time for holy prayers?
"Is it when you see an animal in the distance and know whether it's a sheep or a dog?"
"No," the rabbi answered.
"Is it when you observe a faraway tree and see that it is an apple tree and not a pear tree?"
"No." the rabbi softly answered
"Is it when the stars fade away as the sky grows lighter?"
"No," the rabbi gently replied.
"Perhaps it is when the light grows greater than the darkness."
"No," was all the rabbi said.
After a few more attempts, all the students asked in unison, "So when does the night end?"
The rabbi lovingly looked each student fully in the face in a slow scan and finally said, "When you look at the face of any man or woman and see that they are each and all your brothers and sisters-that alone is when the night ends. If you cannot see this, then darkness reigns throughout the world."
Nothing important gets solved once and for all, finally and forever. The continuing struggle was once described in the following metaphor by a patient who had successfully completed a long course of psychotherapy: "I came to therapy hoping to receive butter for the bread of life. Instead, at the end, I emerged with a pail of sour milk, a churn, and instructions on how to use them.
B. Kopp reporting on what a client of his had learned in therapy, If You Meet
The Buddha on the Road, Kill Him (1972)
How Rich Are We?
"How was the trip?"
"Very good, Dad!"
"Did you see how poor people can be?" the father asked.
"And what did you learn?"
The son replied, "I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden; they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lamps in the garden; they have the stars. Our patio reaches to the front yard; they have a whole horizon."
When the little boy finished speaking, his father was speechless. His son added, "Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are."
The Cat Is On The Roof
A man returning home from work one day is met by his wife who declares, "The cat is dead!"
The man is beside himself with upset and in no uncertain terms tells the woman that, "You can't say such things to me!"
She is mystified and says, "Yea?"
He tells her that she needs to slowly work up to delivering such tough news. Next time she should first tell him that she left a window open, the cat got out and she's concerned. Then after he is used to the idea, she can say she is unable to find the cat and that she is worried. After giving some time for this to sink in, she can tell the man that the cat is on the roof and is feeling anxious. Once he takes this in, then she can inform him that the cat took a nasty fall and she is quite frightened. As he begins to digest this situation, she can finally relay the news that the cat didn't fall well and, well, died.
The woman says, "Uh-huh."
Two months pass by. One day the man comes home from work, opens the door and greets his wife as usual. The woman approaches the man, takes his hand in hers and says, "Your mother is on the roof."
you hear the story of a guy that fell from a sixty-storey building?
What Goes Into A Life?
A college philosophy professor with an unfilled jar on the podium asked the class, "Is the jar full or empty?"
"Empty," was the reply.
The professor filled it with big rocks and asked again, receiving the same reply. The same question and response was repeated after continuing to fill it with large gravel and then sand.
Only when water was added did the reply change to "Full."
The professor asked, "What's the moral?"
A student piped up, "No matter how full your life is, you can always put a little more into it."
Incredulous, the professor replied, "Be sure to put the big things in your life first. Otherwise there will no room remaining."
I Don't Want To Go To School!
Author Unknown (Adapted from John Hanley, Lifespring, 1989)
One morning Tommy was called by his mother to get up or else he would be late for school. Tommy didn't respond, but pulled the covers over his head, buried his head in his pillow and turned over in bed, hoping his mother would forget about him. However, minutes later, Tommy's mother again called him to awaken saying his breakfast was getting cold. Tommy wrestled and debated in his head whether he could feign having a sore throat and feeling sick. At last, Tommy's mother appeared in his room after running up the stairs and sat down on the bed next to him. She gently shakes him and he yawns and stretches, all the while pretending to still be asleep.
Tommy's mother urges him to quickly get out of bed and hurry up in order to get to school on time. Tommy now looks at his mother and desperately pleads to say home saying, "All the teachers don't like me. All the kids tease me. No one cares if I go to school or not. Why should I go?"
Tommy's mother insists he go to school saying, "Now none of that is true. There are four good reasons to go to school: First of all, all your teachers do like you and are counting on you to come. Secondly, the other kids do respect you and would miss you. Third, you have a responsibility to show up at school. Fourth, you're 40 years old and you're the principal!"
It's Not My Fault!
A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts "Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?"
The man below says: "Yes, you're in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field."
"You must work in Information Technology," says the balloonist.
"I do," replied the man. "How did you know?"
"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but it's no use to anyone."
The man below says, "You must work in management."
"I do," replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?"
"Well," says the man, "you don't know where you are, or where you're going, but you expect me to be able to help. You're in the same position you were before we met, but now it's my fault!"
Who's On First Zen
"I am going to pose a question," King Milinda said to Venerable Nagasena. "Can you answer?"
Nagasena said, "Please ask your question."
The king said, "I have already asked."
Nagasena said, "I have already answered."
The king said, "What did you answer?"
Nagasena said, "What did you ask?"
The king said, "I asked nothing."
Nagasena said, "I answered nothing."
The Fun House of Mirrors
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
Most people have sampled the experience of going to an amusement park and going through "The Fun House of Mirrors," although it is hard to know whether it is a ride, a demonstration or simply an experience. One thing for sure: it is with us lifelong. We laugh as we are keep being confronted with images of us, specifically one's mirror image. The German term doppelganger means one's opposite. We look for the soul's path, yet find it difficult to distinguish the ego's mirrored shadow from the true nature's light. So we do keep bumping, quite literally, into ourselves, our shadow aspects of ego. It is curious to note that Jimi Hendrix, the rock guitarist par extraordinary, called the ego desire of fame the "room full of mirrors."
Near the start and finish of the "Fun House of Mirrors" are distorted mirrors that make us look short and round, long and tall, and very squiggly, just as the ego's lens distorts all we see. However you judge success regarding a walk through the fun house of mirrors, it would certainly include seeing how few times you bumped into your false self and how smoothly you stayed on the soul's path. It would probably enhance the experience to shun all reactivity and remain light-hearted, with occasional laughter throughout. Surely, being able to go all the way through it until you completed the journey would be another feather in your cap. What if the fun house of mirrors is another way of talking about reality and your journey through life, specifically your ego/mind and your soul or Self? Then, you could say, it's all you all the time and there isn't anyone else! All that you bump into is simply a reflection of yourself, your projection or another person's projection, that you reactively caught given some unfinished blockage to work through.
I imagine the trick in successfully navigating the fun house of mirrors, and the world, reality and your ego, would be to bump into your shadow self and any projections as little as possible by reincorporating them into one's true nature. A still mind accurately reflects reality. Then you can move through this attraction, entertainment and ride with minimal, if any, reactivity, letting nothing throw you for an emotional loop. Progress is shown by your ability to stay on your path with ease and a flowing quality, enjoying the trip with a light joyfulness and peace. If you have not come to meet your true being in everyone who crosses your path, then what have you come for? I imagine that when we find someone who see our innermost facets as we do, then we see them as so brilliant because it validates our own hoped for brilliance. If you can see me, I hope I can too.
When anyone turns the mirror around to see its back, there is no one to be seen! When you can see no-thing, you can truly see everything, everyone, everywhere.
In the George Lukas film "The Empire Strikes Back," Luke Skywalker is being trained to use telekinesis to lift his X-wing fighter plane out of the bog by Jedi master Yoda. Skywalker is doing a one-arm handstand near a marsh and telepathically stacking a stone atop another with Yoda's encouragement. Nearby, Skywalker's water-bound X-wing fighter sinks further in the bog and he loses his concentration, collapses and causes Yoda, and the stones, to fall.
Luke: [Looking toward the water] "Oh no. We'll never get it out!"
Yoda: "So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?"
Luke: "Master, moving stones around is one thing, but this is totally different."
No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what
Luke: "All right, I'll give it a try."
Yoda: "No! Try not. Do,. Or do not. There is no "try."
[Luke concentrates and begins to raise the ship, loses concentration and it falls.]
Luke: "I can't. It's too big!"
Yoda: "Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hm? And well you should not. For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it. Makes it flow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we [Touches Skywalker's shoulder], not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Yes, even between the land and the ship.
Luke: [Walking away] "You want the impossible. [Yoda shuts his eyes, concentrates, extends his hand and levitates the ship. Luke watches in amazement as the ship rises out of the swamp, is carried and gently set on the land.] I don't. . . I don't believe it!"
Yoda: "That is why you fail."
Wills Perspective on Practicing Psychology: Dr.
Friedman's Practice | Dr.
Friedman's Approach | Therapeutic
Purposes | Credentials
| Experience | Brochures
| Interview | Events
and Workshops | Website Disclaimer