We are perfect as we are. This is the ecstatic proclamation of the advaitic, or non-dual path of direct understanding. But the moment this proclamation is made, the question is often raised, "How do we come to this understanding?" This question arises from the notion that there is something that we can do to come to this understanding. This presupposes that there is a progressive path of purification that will take us to this realization. These two paths, of direct and progressive realization, are really two ends of a stick. We cannot have one end without the other. What we often don't realize is that the stick is always, in and of itself, whole. The poles of direct and progressive, non-dual and dual, are complimentarities. When we live with the complimentarity of these approaches, we find that they are, in fact, a unified whole. It appears that we cannot come to the final understanding that we are perfect as we are without being involved in a process of purification. But ultimately, neither a direct path nor the path of purification will take us to the ultimate understanding.
Once upon a timeless moment, before the conceptual 'Big Bang' birthed us into creation, we were without perception of inside or outside, of "self" or "other". We felt no sense of separa-tion. We were not a "do-er" or a "be-er" for there was no "doing" or "being". There was only non-conceptual "suchness"; our "original face before we were born", the proverbial sound of the "one hand clapping" that everything is before it becomes some 'thing'.
As I was writing this paper, I stopped and asked my wife what she would say if she were giving this presentation. Without hesitation she replied: "I wouldn't write a thing. I'd keep silent and go about my life. Then everyone would see what my real doing and being is. I thought her answer a particularly good response, for no matter what we say, our actions always speak louder than any words we may utter. The ultimate truth is always expressed in the Silence that is beyond descrip-tion.
And now, for as far back as we have been convinced into believing, we find ourselves living as apparently separate selves, doing and being and quite often, feeling "done in" and being "quite out of it". We are often perplexed and confused, alternating between feeling anxious and alone, all the while searching to calm our 'hungry ghosts' within that are constantly searching for a sense of belonging and a feeling of unqualified security.
Perhaps some of us may recall that first moment when time arrived and we suddenly felt our se-parateness. I must have been between one and two, for I remember quite distinctly that I was able to talk. My sister and I were standing by the side of the window in our bedroom. In a flash of awakening into time, space and separation I found myself, for the first time, feeling separate from my sister-a distinct and separate other, her brother. And I was able to also discern the light flowing in through the window as a distinct reality, separate from us both.
We now find ourselves living separate lives, feeling ourselves distinct from one another. We feel ourselves separate and independent from everything else in the universe. Then, as a sepa-rate and independent entity, we reach out for only a part of life rather than the whole of it. We want what we find acceptable and we reject what is not. We think the opposites are to be kept apart. Give us happiness but certainly not grief. Give us security and not fear. And, by all means, give us health and life, not pain, suffering and death.
It is my experience as a psychologist and teacher of meditation that clients and students often come because there is something they are unable to be with. If they knew how to be with it, they would probably want to be somewhere else than in my office. And I don't know about you, but this is how I came to spiritual work. Sadness and depression, loneliness and aliena-tion had been my traveling companions for too many years. I was longing for a way out, and up to the point of discovering meditation, nothing had given me the escape I was looking for.
So often we are trying to be other than the way we are. We live in self-images of a self we think we 'should' be. I remember a moment when my daughter, Jenny, was three years old. My wife and I were standing in the dining area of our home, hugging each other in a warm embrace. As I peered over Anne's shoulder I could see Jenny looking up at us from her spot on the floor. My mind began to spin out its fantasy of "Oh, look what a good role model I'm being." But simultaneously present was the counter thought, "Whatever you really are, that's what she's really seeing. So get out of your head and get on with your life. Say what you want, try to be and do what you will, you will always be what you are, and this is what she will always be seeing."
So the bad news is that we live in insecurity, anxiety and fear. But the good news is always here too. We wouldn't be searching for this experience of security and belonging if we didn't already know that it exists. And we wouldn't have this intuition if we weren't already, at some place out of time, living and tasting this unbridled joy and comfort we so long for. And this is the rub. We seem to know what we are searching for, but, at the same time, we seem incapable of finding it in a lasting and satisfying manner. But if we already know what we are looking for, and if it already exists within us, why is it we are unable to bring it fully into our lives?
Searching involves looking for something, doesn't it? When we are looking for something we are looking for an object. And in order to look for an object we must be separate from what we are looking for. And if we find this longed-for object, we will still be separate from it. We may possess it for a moment, but it will always be a fragile object in our hands. The very act of looking keeps us separate from what we are trying to find. Anything we find remains an object to us. And anything that we do find can, and we can be assured, will always be taken away from us, whether by design, accident or death.
When All Is Left Behind
When we find something
It will be taken away.
But when we are empty
what is there to lose?
Prior to all gain what is present?
But what is there when even this
is left behind?
Meditation is not addition.
If anything, it is subtraction.
Take away all that there is,
and we find ourselves living in
and as empty-fullness.
So, Be quiet.
Cease all doing. Stop all non-doing.
Make no effort.
Don't make this difficult.
there is no way to get there from here
for there is no there to go to.
before 'I' arises
and mind makes the difference.
What then can we do? What is it that when It is present, It can no longer be lost?
Separation is an activity of the mind. It is what the mind does. But life, in actuality, is whole. There is no separation anywhere. Modern physics, with the help of the electron microscope, shows us that you cannot tell where your hand ends and space begins or where you end and another begins. Go out as far as you can or go in as far as you will, but going out or going in, there are no boundaries anywhere except as comparative edges, pairs of opposites, projected by the mind for the sake of definition and manipulation.
The function of the mind is to divide in order to formulate and manipulate a world of objects. I wouldn't be able to hold a cup if the mind hadn't separated it out from the all-that-is, which is present before separation arises. The mind projects a 'so-called other' so that it may interact and be in relationship. And wherever there is separation we find a pair of opposites-man and woman, self and other, pain and pleasure, black and white, awake and asleep, duality and non-duality. But the good news is co-arising with separation is anxiety, insecurity and fear. We may call these 'negative emotions' and spend our lives trying to get rid of them. But as long as there is separation, there will always be anxiety and fear. Fear and insecurity co-arise with separation. They are complimentary opposites and always co-exist. Separation cannot be present without fear.
So why do I say, "fortunately fear arises with the sense of separation"? Why is this 'good news', because fear is our messenger. Fear tells us that separation is present. It informs us that a mental split has occurred that has conceptually divided what is actually whole, into so-called parts. Fear orients us. It is our friend and ally.
But we are always trying to get rid of fear, aren't we? We are constantly in a struggle to change ourselves. This is even the warp and woof of our spiritual practice, is it not? We want to be more healthy and happy, flexible, strong and energetic. We want to be relaxed, comfortable, and secure and sane individuals. And this is the problem. As long as we are convinced we need to be an individual and different-other than as we are-in order to achieve some pre-conceived goal we are searching for, we are in conflict from the get-go. We are at war with ourselves. This is the origin of all self-judgment and self-condemnation. We are trying to be other than as we are.
But we don't stop here, do we? We can't stand that we do this within ourselves. We can't stand this betrayal we're living in. So we drive these psychological movements of self-hatred into our unconscious. And whatever lives in the unconscious surely gets projected outward. When anger and violence exist within ourselves, we project anger and violence into the world. When we are angry that we are being judged it is only because we are already judging ourselves. When we are upset that another is hurting us, it is only because we are already hurting our-selves. And when we feel that any 'so-called' other is hurting us, be assured that they are only hurting themselves. They, also, are full of un-owned self-condemnation that they are trying to project out away from themselves and into the world. And if we claim their anger and their dissatisfaction it will only be because we feel the same way about ourselves. You see no one can ever hurt us. We are the ones who are always and only hurting ourselves. And if you don't agree, bring an end to self-judgment, self-hatred and self-condemnation and then look out again at the world. It will appear miraculously and completely transformed.
When we shift from trying to change ourselves to being non-judgmentally aware of all our in-ternal movements, something magical begins to unfold. For anything that is placed in aware-ness, transforms. Awareness is like fire. Fire purifies. And awareness purifies. Fire doesn't care a wit what is in it. It doesn't judge. It doesn't compare. It simply burns out the impurities of anything that is placed within its presence. And awareness is simple presence; presence to what is. And so, here is the answer we are looking for. We simply need to rest in the fire of awareness. This is an act of being open that comes from the tremendous insight that every-thing else we have tried to do up to this point has utterly and totally failed. In this moment of fully resting in the fire of awareness the mind has given up and we are completely open to the unknown. We are living in a listening that is without goal or intention.
At first our listening is to the objects arising in awareness. In our meditation we learn to listen to the body, to the breath and to the subtle currents of energy, feeling, sensation and thought. At first our practice is full of comparison, competition and intention. But intention hinders us from seeing facts as they are. When we intend, try to achieve or become something, we are not open. We are living in a preconceived mental image of how we think we should be. When we are striving for a goal we can never reach the Truth for our very striving as a separate individ-ual means we are separate from what we are striving for.
I remember the morning I awoke after an evening of contemplating suicide because life had reached an endpoint of depression and hopelessness. The insight came that I had been trying to get other people to tell me what to do. I realized that I hadn't been open. I understood that everything was up to me. I had to find the answer because nobody could give it to me.