Watkins author, Cate Montana, answers some of our questions in the first installment of the Watkins Wisdom Speaks Series.
Cate Montana is the author of Unearthing Venus: My Search for the Woman Within, also available in e-book, and co-author of GhettoPhysics: Redefining the Game with William Arntz, creator of the film What the Bleep Do We Know!? Her work focuses on self-realization, the physics of consciousness, and implementing feminine values and sustainable lifestyles. As a screenwriter, she is author of the film adaptation of A Gathering of Selves and co-author of the screenplay Zentropy. Website: www.catemontana.com
W: What is the moment that changed your life forever?
C.M.: Only one? Jeez – I have moments that change my life forever every other week. But the Moment of Moments was when, after 20 years and some 28,000 hours of meditation (not kidding), I woke up to the truth that Cate Montana was an illusion—a mental construct that was the inevitable result of an Infinite Mind taking up residence in a physical body.
Wow! “I” was a chimera! An imaginary persona that had arisen as the inevitable result of 11 million bits of sensory input per second impinging upon my baby brain (and every other second for the rest of my life)—information that constantly in-formed me that I was a separate entity, distinct from the world and everything and everyone in it.
Never mind that it’s an error of perception that everyone is incarnated into a body experiences. It’s just the way the whole body thing works. But awakening to the truth that my perceived self and the world I operated in was an illusion—truly the dream of Maya—was the game changer of game changers.
What once had been a nice spiritual concept (Maya) was now my living reality. As you can imagine, “my” life has not been the same since.
W:What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
C.M.: I can think of a ton of helpful things to say like, don’t take the world seriously. (What else could I say knowing that life as we know it really is a dream?) I could say play more. (Although I confess, I’ve played a lot anyway.) Or don’t pick up that guy you’ll meet in a pub in Salisbury while backpacking solo around England in 1982. But I know it’s futile. I couldn’t have heard the advice because at that age I was an uninformed, socially programmed child who thought she knew everything.
But really the point is, why would I go back and muck with my life in the first place? If I hadn’t done every single wonderful, stupid thing I’ve done, if I hadn’t made all the socially insane choices I made, I wouldn’t be the “me” that tripped over the truth of my own non-existence, would I? Ha!
Life really is perfect. There are no “good” or “bad” things I’ve done or experienced. There are simply the things I’ve done and the experiences and wisdom learned. Was some of it painful? God, yes. Was some of it glorious? God, yes. But then that’s life—an amazing tapestry of experiences that seem to be at odds (some good, some bad, some wise, some not) with the good experiences always seeming preferable to the ego.
But good/better/best/worst experiences are all just part of the illusion of separation and duality—and a damn convincing illusion it is, too.
W: What is one thing you do every day to increase or maintain your happiness?
C.M.:I wish I could say eat healthily every day, but I still don’t manage that. Close. But not every day. Years ago, I would have said “meditate.” But I don’t do that every day either anymore. I suppose the most important thing I “do” every day is more of a “being” thing.
I’m still in the process of freeing up from the old attachments to my ego. But I’m far enough along to be able to say that no longer identifying with the human perspective and the ego’s endless needs and fears and emotional turmoil and reactions to everything that life presents is a blessing. And that’s an understatement.
Instead—and this is my daily moment-to-moment “work”—I focus on the simple truth that I exist as One with life. All life is “me.” Yes, there is still a consciousness called Cate that has a driver’s license and bills to pay—a consciousness that perceives life from an apparently localized point of view, living in a house overlooking the Puget Sound in the US. But “I” no longer identify much with that. Which is really abstract, so let me give an example of how this actually works.
“Cate” used to endlessly worry about making enough money. And from the consciousness perspective of believing herself to be an isolated stand-alone unit called a human being—a stand-alone unit that had to compete with other human beings for limited resources and work her ass off to get ahead or to even survive in the world—Cate had good reason to fret and sweat.
The illusory world of isolated stand-alone units called human beings is scary as hell. It’s freaking brutal. The illusion of separation makes most humans do all sorts of terrible things, from compromising their natural interests and dreams—studying business administration instead of art history and becoming an accountant instead of a painter—to marrying for security, or putting every extra dime into a savings account for old age instead of running off and having the experience of surfing the left-hand curls off the beaches of Peru.
Separation is terrifying. In that illusion there’s nothing to trust but “oneself.” And Holy Moses! That’s some pretty limited resources we’re talking! That’s how my life used to be.
But now it’s different. Let’s say a big unexpected bill comes in and I lose a freelance job. At the same time I’m wondering if I should accept an invitation to go spend the summer in Greece at a friend’s house. Now, instead of freaking out and telling my friend “no” and frantically looking for work, I look out the window and drink in the view of Puget Sound and the massive presence of Mt. Rainier. I go for a walk and inhale the sights, sounds, and smells of an infinitely abundant world that is me. The air, the earth, the sky, the forests, the restless sea, the plants, the animals … it’s all me. And I breathe that Truth into every pore.
I soak in endless bounty and beauty … of the Earth, the stars, and all life … as me.
So, then, what’s to worry about? I let life do its thing. I align with the truth of what I AM (abundance/bounty), and let go and don’t try to push the river and make something happen.
That doesn’t mean I don’t work hard. I do! I’m obsessed with my writing. But my work isn’t “work.” I don’t do what is not in my nature to do, whether work or play. I relax into all of it and sometimes I do/be nothing. Which is the most fertile place of all.
My point is: life itself now dictates the rhythm. “I” do not. Which means there is absolutely nothing I “do” to ensure my happiness everyday except constantly reframe my perspective from the illusion of being an isolated stand-alone unit to the truth of being everything.
And frankly, from that perspective, happiness itself is overrated as a goal. But that’s a whole other conversation.
W: What author has had the most impact on you?
C.M.:Life impacts me most, and sometimes life brings me its messages in a book. There have been many that have been influential and helpful—but not one book or author in particular.
W: What is on your nightstand now?
C.M.: A lamp
3 pens (one is a light-pen to write with in the dark); 1 pencil
A small yellow notepad
My TV remote
A large chunk of coral
2 science fiction books: Larry Niven’s Draco Tavern (short stories) and Lois MacMaster Bujold’s Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance
The cover from Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol
Napolean Hill’s Outwitting the Devil (amazing book and currently coverless)
The Atman Project, by Ken Wilber
The World of Shamanism by Roger Walsh, M.D.
Double Blind by Ken Goddard (Picked this novel up second-hand at a tiny country grocery store when I took a quick 24-hour break at the ocean and was desperate for literary potato chips. Could only eat two chapters.)
Spiritual Bypassing by Robert Masters
W: Do you believe in reincarnation?
C.M.: Before the Moment That Changed Everything, this would have been a one-word answer: absolutely. Now? All bets are off.
I know the ego, Cate Montana, is an illusion that arose with this body. Logically, that means this persona will most likely dissipate after this body dies, rather like a mist on a cool fall morning. I say “most likely” because I’m not certain if the “pattern of information” called Cate—the thoughts/habits and compulsions that define her personal existence/identity—will continue or even can continue past the death of the brain through which these thought patterns arise.
But, then there are scientists, such as Sir Robert Penrose, who speculate that the foundation of Creation and the Multiverse itself is pure information at the level of the Plank Scale of 1.22×1019 GeV (giga electronvolts – which is vastly smaller than the scale of the quantum world).
So, if everything is information, why wouldn’t the information of “Cate” live on?
Well, it might. But in what “form?”
Let’s use the analogy of the waters of the ocean temporarily arising and taking the form of a wave, which is swiftly subsumed back into the ocean after its brief spume-filled existence. Maybe the wave thought of itself as an individual wave. Maybe it named itself and had relationships with other waves. Maybe it even lost track of the fact that it was part of the ocean and thought of itself in terms of being alone and isolated.
As an individual, the wave gets mightily attached to its separate special existence. It wants to perpetuate itself. It knows it’s going back into the ocean someday … but maybe it will reincarnate as another wave? It surely hopes so. … maybe, if it were a really really good wave, it’s continued existence would be better guaranteed?
This kind of thinking is, of course, how wave religions are born.
Does the wave live on and reincarnate? Truth is, the wave never left the ocean and never had a separate existence to begin with. What’s to live on but the ocean itself?
But what is the ocean? Isn’t it comprised of all the waves and all the information the waves collected?
Then there’s the issue of the soul. I used to believe in the soul as some sort of repository for the experiences that “I” (as Cate or whoever) had—a repository of wisdom that was carried forward from incarnation to incarnation (from wave to wave).
But if I really am the ocean, and the ocean contains all the information collected from every wave into Eternity, including the information of what was once the wave called Cate … then what’s the point of an individualized “soul?” The information is always there and available. It’s never lost.
So finally we come to The Great Mystery: The One and its expression of multiplicity: The One and the Many.
I chew on this a lot. I know full well I am a wave that never leaves the ocean and that I am one with every other wave in existence and that my true nature is the ocean. And yet … there is this amazing thing called localized perspective.
This wave called Cate seems to exist separately. As do other waves—like Dewei, a cabdriver in Peking. We are One. But we have totally different views of life. Astounding!
My question is, does the seemingly individualized “locus of perception” of pure consciousness that temporarily gathers information as Cate or Dewei exist through Eternity, reforming over and over and over as different waves, depositing its gathered information at the end of each wave life back into the ocean, only to arise yet again in new form?
Does a unique “perspective,” that (for lack of a better way of putting it) I can call “mine,” continue after the death of both my body and the current persona? I haven’t a clue. But it sure will be fun finding out.