Friday, July 26, 2013

more Joan Tollifson.

This lady says it so well !
When we speak of giving complete, nonjudgmental attention to the present moment, accepting what is and allowing it to be as it is, or when we say everything is perfect as it, this is sometimes misunderstood. No one is saying we shouldn’t identify problems (a flat tire, global warming, alcohol addiction, a broken bone), or that we shouldn’t imagine, seek out, or work to bring about constructive solutions—if we are so moved. ALL of that is part of this seamless and all-inclusive happening. The acceptance that is being pointed to is absolutely immediate—right here, right now, not a second or a minute from now—and the perfection of what is INCLUDES not only the problems but also the noticing of problems, the impulse to fix and heal things, and the actions that emerge from those impulses. 

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s actually deeply healing and transformative to simply attend to and fully accept the way things are right now in this moment (the tire is flat, the ice caps are melting, I was unable to resist having this 4th drink, my leg is in pain and I can’t walk). That doesn’t mean life won’t move us to seek a solution in the next moment. It means that right now, in this instant, we’re simply seeing and acknowledging the reality of how life actually IS. And when there is simply awareness—without thought, we can’t even say that “the tire is flat” or “the ice caps are melting,” because even that is an abstraction and a story—the bare actuality is prior to thought. It is pure sensation—energy—vibration—not those words, but the living actuality to which they point. That living actuality has no plotline, no central character, no past or future. And out of that simple awareness or nonjudgmental acceptance, intelligent action (or non-action) arises. We may change the tire, join a movement to stop climate change, go into a recovery program, or go to the hospital to have our broken leg attended to. (Or we might do something completely different—there is no single, correct “intelligent action”).

If we pay attention, we can perhaps notice the difference between the bare awaring of what is—simple, open, nonjudgmental attention—and the movement of thought (labeling, evaluating, judging, analyzing, story-telling). We’re not saying thought is bad or suggesting that we should strive to be entirely free of thinking—thought has its place—we’re simply noticing the difference between thinking and awaring. Awareness isn’t seeking a solution or passing judgment—it is simply AWARE. It accepts everything and resists nothing. It beholds everything equally. It has no agenda. It is nondual, meaning that in awareness, there is no separation between awareness and content—we have different words for purposes of communicating, but EXPERIENTIALLY (in awareness without thought), awareness/content is one whole, undivided, seamless happening. There is no separation.

Dualism is a creation of thought. It only exists notionally or conceptually. Thought divides, reifies, categorizes, compares, evaluates and strategizes. It creates the illusory (conceptual) division between “me” and “my problem.” (Or between subject and object, or awareness and content). If we’re “trying to be aware,” or “doing acceptance” or “being aware SO THAT THE PROBLEM WILL GO AWAY,” that’s not bare awareness, that’s the movement of thought, operating from an agenda. At the center of that agenda is the thought-sense of “me,” the one with a problem. Bare awareness is undivided, whole, empty of self. It simply SEES what is, without separation. There is no owner of awareness. 

Awareness has an intelligence that thought does not have. Awareness is alive and unconditioned, whereas thought is mechanical and conditioned. When there is resistance to how life actually is, when we are caught up in idealistic notions of how it “should” and “should not” be, the actions that arise from those habitual patterns of thought tend to repeat the same old grooves again and again. (Of course, that too is all the happening of life itself and in that moment could not be otherwise). If we think about all this, it may get confusing, but if we rely on actual, direct experience—awareness rather than thought—everything clarifies itself. 

Thought is a story-teller. It creates narratives. It comes up with stories and then forgets they are fictional. It tells stories like, "I’m a hopeless case because of my traumatic past, doomed to a life of addiction and depression, and I’ll never be able to have the spiritual experiences other people have because I’m too traumatized,” and we BELIEVE these stories that the mind has concocted out of thin air. They SEEM very believable—just the way the story and the characters in a movie seem real. We think there really IS a “me” who has been traumatized and who is now hopelessly doomed as a result. But the truth is, this “me” and the whole “story of my life” is a creation of smoke and mirrors. And it doesn’t really matter whether what appears Here / Now is expanded or contracted, tense or relaxed, bright or dull, pleasant or unpleasant. None of it is personal—it has no owner, no author—and ALL of it is the happening of life.

Taking the things in our lives that appear problematic personally, turning them into an identity and giving them meaning is a form of suffering, as is fighting them and trying to get rid of them. With my fingerbiting compulsion that still flares up, for example, I no longer believe this compulsion means something about me—that "I'm a spiritual failure" or “a real loser,” as I used to believe. I've come to genuinely accept that this compulsion may continue to show up periodically for the rest of my life, and I'm at peace with that possibility. It might end forever in the next instant. But it doesn’t matter either way. Yes, if it ended, that would be more pleasant for me, but life is not always pleasant. And I notice that when there is AWARENESS of fingerbiting—awareness without any overlay of thought, which could also be called total acceptance—that it isn’t even “fingerbiting” anymore. It is simply energy, movement, sensation—no-thing in particular. When the compulsion happens, it is a tense, unpleasant, contracted experience. But I no longer have some idea that “I” (this character) must be perpetually relaxed and open and blissful. The true I, which is Life Itself, has no problem with contraction, tension, depression, anxiety or dis-ease. It includes everything. 

There's always only this ever-present, ever-changing Here / Now, however it is. And the more desire and push there is to have special or different or better experiences, or the more regret and hopelessness over not having them, the more likely they are to evade us...sort of like what happens when we try really hard to fall asleep while simultaneously thinking about all the ways a sleepless night will ruin our life. In the end, experiences are just experiences...whether it is an experience of contraction or an experience of expansion. And no experience is there all the time. Magnificent experiences pass away and really don’t mean anything.

I remember in the Feldenkrais training I did some years back, sometimes they would suggest bringing attention to some part of the body, and at first, I'd be completely unable to sense anything in that was a total dead zone. But over time, with relaxed attention, I could begin to sense something there, however slight. Or they'd suggest a movement that at first seemed impossible but eventually became possible. And even if the dead zone remains dead and the movement never becomes possible, what difference does it make, really?

Some people report dramatic experiences of intense kundalini energy coursing through their bodies and shooting out the tops of their heads. For years, I was never really sure what they were talking about—it sounded like some important mark of a truly enlightened being that I obviously didn't have. Yes, I could feel a kind of energetic vibration or tingling in certain parts of the body if I paid attention, but nothing as remotely dramatic as what many people seemed to describe. And then once during a massage I was receiving, for a few minutes, I felt powerful rivers of energy gushing through my body. It was quite amazing. “Wow!” I said to the person working on me, "This is what people talk about!” And she said, "Yes, this is what it's all about—energy." It has never happened again, not ever. I remember Wayne Liquorman telling a similar story, describing how he was meditating once, and he felt this huge surge of energy come rushing up his spine and shoot out the top of his head....and he was like, Wow!!! Fantastic!!!....and the next day, he sits down in meditation excitedly waiting for a repeat performance, and it never happens again, not ever. Experiences are just experiences. They come and go and they don't really mean anything. But many people in the spiritual world become experience junkies, endlessly seeking spiritual highs or trying to recapture moments of peace, unity, ecstasy or expanded consciousness. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying such experiences when they happen, but chasing them is really no better than getting hooked on drugs or getting drunk. Whatever comes will always go away again. Experiences are by nature impermanent and fleeting.

People often tell me they’ve never had the experience of unboundedness that I seem to be describing. I’m guessing they ARE having this experience all the time, but they are simply overlooking it because it's so ordinary...nothing special. Waking up is really just about noticing the wholeness, the seamlessness, the fluidity that is often overlooked in favor of our more habitual focus of attention on some particular, discrete object—and our habitual focus on thought rather than on perception. And the noticing that I’m speaking about isn’t some spectacular psychedelic event in which we see or experience or grasp wholeness as an object—this but not that. It’s very simple, very ordinary. Seeing IS the wholeness—whatever the content or form it is taking. And that seeing (or awaring) is happening right now. It is the registering of this present happening, jut as it is. And the registering is not separate from the happening. It is one, nondual, seamless, all-inclusive whole.

Life can only appear in polarities, but the polar opposites (contraction and expansion, tension and relaxation, agony and bliss, light and dark, enlightenment and delusion, good and bad, birth and death) are not opposing forces in conflict with each other—a conflict in which one will eventually defeat the other, as we often tend to think—but rather, they are interrelated and interdependent aspects of one whole harmonious arising. Enlightenment is not about “me” being permanently expanded, relaxed and blissed out. It is the recognition that nothing is separate, that everything is included, that there is only THIS and that no “thing” (including “me”) has any actual substance. There is only impermanence, which sounds scary if we still think there are “things” that are impermanent. But this impermanence is so thorough-going that no-thing ever even forms to be impermanent. Can you sense the freedom, the joy, the cosmic giggle? (If you can't, don't worry, it doesn't matter). 

Every apparent person is an ever-changing dance inseparable from everything else in the universe. And no two dances are exactly alike. We each have a totally unique part to play in the Great Dance of Life. At times, our different roles seem to clash and conflict (those on the political left vs. those on the political right, the so-called 1% vs. the so-called 99%, investment bankers vs. spiritual renunciates, vegetarians vs. carnivores, Buddhists vs. Advaitans, radical feminists vs. religious fundamentalists, soldiers vs. pacifists). But the apparent clash and conflict is all in perfect, interdependent harmony at a deeper level. Liberation might be described as the ability to play our particular part—dance our unique dance—to the fullest while not losing sight of the larger context, the unicity that includes it all. Then we can express our opinions and do whatever life moves us to do, but without imagining that the whole drama (or the whole universe) is quite as serious (or as substantial and permanent) as it often seems to be, or that the forces of good should (or will) eventually triumph over the forces of evil. We see that no-thing is really happening in the way we think it is. We may still experience pain, illness, disability, loss, contraction, compulsion, depression or anxiety—but it no longer seems like a personal insult or a personal failing. It is simply the ever-changing texture of life—an inexplicable, unavoidable, ungraspable, indivisible, fluid happening