Author Archives: Joey Lott
Author Archives: Joey Lott
All day every day I am experiencing.
Out of habit, I judge experiences as good or bad, desirable or undesirable.
If I accept the judgment as true, I will reliably do only one thing. That one thing may look like a million different things depending on my conditioning. But in essence only one thing is happening, and it is perfectly reliable so long as I accept the judgment as true.
That one thing that happens reliably is what I would call self effort. It is the unconscious, mechanical, automatic reaction. And it is necessarily violent and false.
To the degree that I allow that, my life will be characterized by anxiety, worry, violence, destructiveness, depression, anger, hatred, jealousy, and so forth.
Why? Because in that case I am ignorant. And ignorance of the truth requires strain. It requires effort to remain unconscious. It is painful.
But there’s another way. This other way is very simple. So simple, in fact, mechanical mind cannot grasp it. It cannot turn this simplicity into another of its unconscious strategies of false self defense.
The other way involves seeing what the experiences are showing me.
My mechanical habit is to be willfully (albeit unconsciously) ignorant. I must make effort – a subtle grasping or cringing – to enact this habit. And this habit manifests at a slightly less subtle level as judgment.
I ignore the truth that stares me in the face. That is the first step.
The second step of suffering is judgment.
The third step is to assume the judgment is true.
The fourth step is to act from that wrong assumption.
Then on and on it goes. Suffering begets suffering as long as I indulge the unconscious habits.
Then I may begin to identify with that! At first it is just a reaction. But out of repetition I may start to think that is me. I may start to identify with the habits of shame, hardness of heart, impatience, over intellectualism, etc. So I cling ever more desperately to the habits, fearful that letting go will mean death.
The other way is to see what the experiences are showing me. Which means I pause and look without the overlay or filter of any assumption or habit.
I just pause. I look. I open to truth beyond my hardened, painful ego shell.
I remain consciously restfully aware. Simply seeing. Simply observing.
Pure seeing has no judgment. Judgment is layered on (falsely) after the fact.
Pure seeing is never after the fact. Pure seeing is always now. It can only be now.
Pure seeing is not hard. Pure seeing is effortless. It is simply this openness that has not collapsed into any conclusion, any judgment, any assumption, any knowing, any division.
Pure seeing does not divide. Pure seeing is effortless and without an object or subject.
Well, now I’ve given away the whole surprise.
Pure seeing is without an object or subject.
Pure seeing is the other way. Every experience points to this. This is the source and nature of all experience.
Experience seems to be happening. Already the habit is in motion. This is far from bad. This is no cause for dismay. Rather, this is cause of great joy.
Because I can see this. I can see the motion, the grasping, the gripping, the fear. I can see it. I can see it, I can observe it.
It does not define me. I am aware of it. It is a process, a movement within me.
I remain undisturbed. Even if the thought arises that I am disturbed, I am undisturbed. Even if the memory or image arises that seems to support the claim that I am disturbed, I am undisturbed.
All I have to do is look and see truthfully that I am aware. I am restful. I am uninvolved.
The apparent experience has a flip side to the habitual false understanding. This flip side is what I have just described. That is, the apparent experience is like a GPS. It shows where I am going, where my autopilot is directing my life.
The habitual reaction is to judge, to worry, to anticipate, to asset false power…in a word, to suffer. To suffer the delusion of self power.
The flip side is to receive the gift of the apparent experience. The gift is that it points to the source of the experience.
That source is here now.
The object and subject collapse into a unified field of pure potential. Nothing is good or bad, right or wrong. Nothing can harm or touch me. And conversely, nothing can elevate or augment me.
I am already complete. I am already satisfied. I am already home.
This is the flip side of all experience.
We humans have an amazing power. It is the power of sympathy. In modern terms, we might call the the power of mirror neurons.
I am using the term sympathy to refer to the power of experiencing connection and resonance with what seems to be outside of us.
Sympathy is wonderful when the dominant frequency around me is a frequency that we might term unconditional love, peace, harmony, joy, etc.
But what is the state of the world? Is the state of the world one of unconditional love, peace, harmony, joy, etc.?
Or perhaps I should rephrase that. What is the state of my world? What is the state of your world?
If your world is filled with disappointment, disapproval, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, enmity, lack, and so forth, – and if you are sympathizing with that – you are sympathizing with that frequency and can expect to see that frequency.
Is that your experience? Are you resonating with – sympathizing with – your world of discontent, lack, depression, anxiety, and so forth?
Now, here’s another amazing power that we have access to. It is the power of empathy.
I am using the term empathy to refer to the power of observing the stillness, joy, ease, and grace that is primary…and allowing that truth to shine forth.
So that you and I become beacons. Beacons of unconditional love. Beacons of grace. Beacons of fulfillment. Beacons of truth.
Please understand that I am not suggesting that you or I should strive to be righteous and good and upright and proper and kind. I am not saying that! That would be just more sympathizing with the wrong idea of separation, lack, need.
What I am suggesting is that you and I can surrender all self effort. And we can look truthfully at what remains in this surrender.
And then allow that to shine forth, uncontaminated by our worlds.
Because our worlds are unsatisfying and unhappy, let us put things right by surrendering to truth. Let that truth shine forth effortlessly.
And understand that it does not matter what the rest of the world does. It does not matter what your spouse does or your parents or your children or your neighbors or your boss or your friends or anyone.
If I become concerned with what anyone else is doing, I am sympathizing with that.
Look at your experience and see how this is true in the most mundane and commonplace of experiences. Look at your life. See how when you walk into the room with your wife or your husband or your mother or your son or your friend you habitually begin to resonate with them.
You are experiencing whatever you experience and then the moment you walk into the room you contract. You tighten. That is sympathy.
The other way around can also happen – though it is typically much more rare. We have all likely had an experience in which we were tight, contracted, self-concerned, worried, fearful, angry…and we walked into the room and someone else’s clarity – their unwavering commitment to surrender to unconditional love and freedom and grace affects us. Without effort – even if we resist – we soften.
Who can remain hateful in the face of innocence? Who among us will strike a puppy out of anger? We won’t! We cannot help but be softened by that grace shining forth.
That grace is not virtue. It is not righteousness. It is not goodness. It is not merit.
It is unconditional love. It is undeserved. It is without any reason. It is given freely.
Even in the face of my hatred, my selfishness, my greed, my fear. The innocence of the puppy softens my heart. The innocence of the flower. The innocence of the blade of grass.
That innocence is showing me something true. And because it is unwavering, I cannot help but see.
That is the power of empathy. To surrender deeply and do not waver.
Surrender uplifts my world because it shines the light of truth on my world.
It shows that all there is is innocence. Even if the face that I thought I hated, when surrendered, I see only innocence.
This is all built into the human. It is there for each of us. It is a gift that is given to us by grace. We did not earn it.
I did not earn this. It is given to all. The saints and the sinners alike.
Wherever you imagine that you fall on that spectrum of saint to sinner, I am certain that this exists in you. You have this capacity for empathy – deep surrender and an unwavering shining forth of that unconditional love that is your true nature.
I believe that this is our calling. When we experience pain, lack, disconnection, and suffering of all kinds it is calling us to surrender, to empathize, to be beacons of unconditional love.
This unconditional love washes over all that I have wrongly taken myself to be. All my habits of anger, frustration, disappointment, discouragement, depression, violence – all that does not clearly express the open, non-reactive, unconditional nature of this pure energy that shines forth in surrender – all these habits are washed over by this purity. This light purifies even that which I have found most distressing, most shameful, most unacceptable…
If I surrender it. If I surrender it freely now.
“Yes, this too I surrender. Whatever I might believe, I surrender this too because I cannot endure even a second more of pain.”
In this apparent weakness, this apparent breaking, this apparent insufficiency, this apparent failure…all that is false that I clung to is washed away and this pure light shines forth effortlessly.
This is the power of what I am calling empathy.
Now, remain truthful to this. Remained anchored in this surrender. And watch as the world begins to sympathize. Maybe slowly. Maybe quickly. But regardless, if I remain patient and true, the world cannot help but sympathize.
Thus does the world become light.
Not because I fixed anything. But because I surrender my self effort, my arrogant belief that I know better.
Because in my surrender, all that obstacles are washed away. And the inherent purity that is already present shines forth more clearly in all.
It was always there. I was just overlooking it.
I do not wish to suffer. I have had enough suffering.
Therefore, I choose not to suffer.
For me, choosing not to suffer is a commitment. This is what I often refer to as “telling the truth”.
My habits are not the truth. My habits are to suffer.
So telling the truth means I observe my habits. I must be aware of my habits if I am sincere in my commitment not to suffer.
If I do not observe the habits, I cannot see them clearly. If I do not see them clearly, they continue unconsciously.
The habits have momentum. These habits are not strictly my habits. In fact, when I see clearly, I see that they are not my habits at all.
They have momentum because they have been passed down from generation to generation. Because no one looked carefully. Because nobody knew enough to point out the obvious. So they continued. My parents didn’t know better. Their parents didn’t know better.
The habits have been passed down. And they have become so normalized that I will be blind to them unless I choose to look.
The habits that I am referring to are all negativity. All judgement. All belief in the inevitability of suffering. All ignorance of our true nature.
These are normalized. The world out there is reacting to these normalized habits with the very same habits. The motto “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is the motto of the normalized and thus nearly invisible habits.
But there is another way.
That other way did not originate with me. I could not have found it on my own.
The other way is the way that the Buddha spoke of. Jesus spoke of it.
An eye for an eye truly makes the whole world blind. But by the grace of what is beyond this world, we can discover true sight. Spiritual sight.
Spiritual sight is necessary for telling the truth.
Spiritual sight is seeing without referring to the habits. Spiritual sight is to see purely without contaminating the seeing with my thoughts, reactions, memories, etc.
Spiritual sight is a beautiful light that illuminates all. And in so doing, it reveals the false as false.
But I cannot have it. I cannot possess it. Because the one who wants to have it is the habits of negativity – lack, fear, arrogance, defensiveness – that the light instantly cleanses. These habits disappear in the pure light of spiritual sight.
When I notice negativity – judgement, depression, anger, fear, worry, jealousy, defensiveness, clinging, grasping – I am reminded of my commitment.
I give thanks for this reminder. I give thanks that the grace of the true teacher is truly in all things. Even in the seeming negativity the grace of the true teacher shines forth. It says, “You are grasping. You are struggling. You are trying too hard. Let go. Surrender. Receive grace now.”
The habit of “an eye for an eye” screams that the only possibility is to lash out, to defend, to punish, to “show them”, to prove myself. I remain still.
The habit of grasping grasps tighter. It squeezes so hard that I fear I will be crushed. I fear that I will be destroyed.
The habit screams that I must do something.
I remain still.
I choose to tell the truth. The truth.
What is the truth? I can only see it when I choose it. I choose it by remaining still.
Consciously restful. Aware of the habits. Aware of the impulses to lash out. Aware of the impulses to blame. Aware of the impulses to shame. Aware of the impulses to contract.
Yet choosing restful stillness. Choosing to receive the grace of the true teacher.
All negativity is optional. All judgment, fear, worry, anger, jealousy, arrogance, pride, and all the rest.
It is optional because it is not true.
It only seems to be true out of the continued indulgence of habit.
But when I trace the string of retaliation to its source, its beginning, I find only the grace of the true teacher. This grace is spiritual sight. It is the pure light of pure seeing.
There never was a first insult. No one started this. No one hit first.
This is what the true teacher reveals. There never was a threat. There never was any negativity.
There was only the mistaken reaction, justified by the story of attack, threat.
I am free now – by grace – to surrender completely. I am free to rest in this uncaused nature.
Whatever the appearance, whatever the seeming impulses, the grace of pure seeing is here. This pure seeing reveals that all so-called negativity and all so-called positivity is this grace.
I perceive thoughts, sensations, images, memories, etc. Out of habit I may think that some of these are negative and some are positive.
If I chase after the positive and avoid the negative, I am blind. I am perpetuating the habits that have been passed down blindly.
When I remain restfully still, consciously present, observing all that arises and tracing it back to its source, I merge with pure seeing. That spiritual sight instantly cleanses all wrong perception of separation. It instantly reveals the false as false.
It instantly reveals that there is no negativity and no positivity. There is only truth and ignorance. And ignorance is unreal.
Sincerely, I believe this is possible for everyone. I believe that there are no conditions for this. I am not a saint. I have not earned grace.
Grace is available to all right now. I truly believe that all that is necessary is to surrender to grace. And I sincerely believe that the method that I have described in this essay is available to all.
This method is such a blessing because it is effortless and does not require merit. There are no conditions for it. You do not need to be pure and perfect. You do not need to be highly intelligent. You do not need to feel anything in particular. You do not need to have any particular experience.
This method is equally powerful if you consider yourself to be a negative person or a positive person. Because every so-called negative experience and every so-called positive experience equally invites us to surrender to grace.
Whatever happens, I observe. I remain restfully still, deeply relaxed and undisturbed. Even if reaction happens and I have a thought that I made a mistake or a thought that I was unconscious or a thought that I should have done better, I remain restfully still, undisturbed.
This is possible for everyone. I truly believe it is. Because this restful stillness, this undisturbed nature, is the truth. It is untouched by whatever disturbances seem to appear. And all that I need to do is watch. I simply observe as grace shows me to observe – restfully undisturbed.
I am like a baby. Imagine a newborn baby held in her mother’s arms. A sound startles the baby. Her mother gently soothes the baby. “Shhhh, all is well. I am here.”
I am that baby. When I perceive a startle, I listen or watch carefully and hear and see my mother soothing me. “Shhh, all is well. I am here. You need not do anything.”
The habits of retaliation, fear, anger, and all the rest of it are beautiful reminders. I momentarily forgot that I am held in my mother’s embrace – in the grace of the true teacher. And the habits, the startles, offer the reminder. “Shhh, all is well. Rest. Watch. See purely. You are always undisturbed. You are not separate from me. You are this pure seeing.”
Once upon a time I believed that winning was important. Not merely important…essential.
I did not know what it meant to believe. I merely believed.
Since I didn’t know what it meant to believe something, I didn’t even recognize that there exists a possibility of not believing. And certainly, I did not know that not believing could be immensely pleasurable.
Because I believed that winning was essential. And I believed that believing was also essential.
Something that was “beyond belief” was unreal to me. I only accepted as real that which I believed.
This is circular reasoning that I am describing. But it was the basis of my entire self concept.
And I believed that my self concept was real. That it was who I was.
Naturally, of course, with so much wrong belief and ignorance, I was experiencing constant pain. But since being in pain was not part of my self concept, I pretended like I was okay.
As such, I never actually looked to see what belief is. I never looked at my own actual experience as it is. I never looked closely enough to see what was beyond belief and self concept.
I lived unconsciously as nothing more than a bunch of reactive tendencies. If you pushed my buttons, I reacted predictably.
But I thought I was something else. I thought I was conscious, aware, present.
I thought that what I was describing as my life – the story of my life – was the truth about myself. So clearly I was deluded.
And being deluded, I argued every possible opportunity that presented itself. I argued with my parents. I argued with my teachers. I argued with my sister. I argued with my friends. I argued with my lovers. I argued with my neighbors. I argued with my financial situation. I argued with my feeling state. I argued with the weather.
I didn’t miss an opportunity to argue.
And I was in it to win it. I argued like it really mattered. I believed it mattered.
But still I didn’t even know the most basic things. Like what belief actually is.
Eventually, however, it was too much to endure. I fell apart. I collapsed under the impossible burden of being right, being seen, being heard, being validated, being accepted, being comfortable, and all the rest.
I couldn’t do it any longer. I failed profoundly. I failed so completely that I could not get up again.
Oh, I’ve tried. I’ve tried to get up. But I stumble and fall before I get up. In fact, I stumble and fall before I even get past the imagination stage. I never even achieve the smallest movement.
And this is how I win every argument.
I win in the only way I have ever found that is available to a complete failure like me. Because since I haven’t been able to get back up, all I can do is watch. All I can do is notice. And what I notice is impulses surfacing. Not literally, of course. But that’s the best I can describe it. Impulses surfacing.
And habits that seek to give shape and meaning to the impulses. Like the mind seeks to give shape and meaning to stars in the sky by calling unrelated phenomena by names like Orion or The Big Dipper.
Only habits. That is what the belief is. Only habit. Nothing more.
The unrelated phenomena that I have mistaken for myself – the sensations, images, memories, words, ideas, etc. – are merely impulses arising. And falling.
Seeing the actual nature of belief, it is crystal clear: there is no harm here. There is nothing to be harmed. There are only unrelated phenomena seemingly happening. And I remain untouched.
I win by not mistakenly acting as though I could ever get involved. I cannot. I cannot get involved.
All that could happen would be unrelated phenomena wrongly associated by means of habit and willful ignorance.
But blessedly, because that willful ignorance hurts, I look. And when I look, I see only unrelated phenomena. Nothing to do with me at all.
First of all, let me explain that with the title of this essay I am referring to a phrase from popular culture: “50,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong”. It appeared on an Elvis record and it likely was intended to suggest that since millions of people have bought Elvis albums, Elvis albums must be fantastic.
More generally, the phrase can be used to suggest that when millions of people flock to something or agree upon something, it must be good or right.
I want to propose a different idea to you.
That different idea is this: The world that most of us have taken to be real and good and right is, in fact, absolutely insane. It could not possibly be more wrong. It is a total inversion of truth.
We have learned that there is safety in numbers. Hence the false claim that you should join the 50,000,000 Elvis fans in their so-called security.
The supposed world out there is nothing but false security. It is composed of nothing more than grasping and clinging to security in things that do not and never have existed.
So if I perceive any insecurity within my experience – even the slightest twinge of it – I am being presented with a great gift. That great gift is the possibility right now of telling the truth.
What is the truth? The truth is what I can see of my own habits and how I have mistaken those habits for truth and thus worked hard to defend them and recreate them over and over. The truth is that my habits are only desperate attempts to get hold of security in this world.
And the clear truth that stares me plainly in the face any time I choose to stop overlooking it is this: there is no security in this world. None. No possibility of it.
And even more to the point, the one who I have imagined is doing the grasping and seeking for security is only a fiction. It does not exist. It never has.
There are only habits. Unconscious habits of grasping for security.
Like mechanical hands programmed to grasp the water flowing in a stream. The habits are doomed to fail. And even if they could succeed, it would not offer any benefit to anyone because there is no one to take receipt of the supposed benefits.
It is only habit. Only habit seeking for security. Only habit believing there is something to defend or get.
This truth is plainly obvious. You can see it. I know you can. Because in your heart – in the quiet moments of desperation – you know it. You see that there is no hope. You will never gain security in this world.
50,000,000 Elvis fans not only can be wrong. They are wrong.
Elvis wasn’t happy. No one who places their faith in the world to give them okayness is happy.
Because the world that we take to be real is insane. It is a lie.
There is another possibility. That possibility is to receive the truth that is ceaselessly flowing here now.
No effort is required. In fact, any effort only distorts it.
So make no effort. Just for this moment now.
And see what happens. See how the habit appears of grasping. Grasping for solutions. Grasping for interpretations. Grasping for answers. Grasping for security.
Don’t condemn yourself. Don’t try to create a blank state. Don’t try to get rid of anything. Just watch. See the habits.
And then notice that you are aware. You are untouched.
You cannot possess this. You – as you conceive of yourself – are a fiction. You are an eddy in the stream. Nothing more.
The grasping is you – the you that you has mistaken yourself to be – is only a mechanical habit.
Mechanical habits come and go. See that you need not give any concern to it.
Indeed, you cannot give any concern to it. All concern is only more mechanical habit.
There is no security in the world out there. The world of mechanical habit cannot fulfill you. It cannot grant peace.
You do not need security. What comes and goes never was. It only appeared to be.
Recently I realized that it might be valuable for me to describe the “internal process” that I observe that seems to “lead” to various benefits. In this essay, I will specifically describe an internal process that leads to the benefit of not worrying.
I struggled with worry a lot in my earlier life. When I was in school I worried about being bullied. I worried about kids hitting me during recess. I worried about how others might judge my body. I worried about others finding out how weird I was. I worried about my parents judging me. I worried about getting the right answers and performing well.
I got really skilled at worry. But I didn’t realize that I was skilled at worry. I thought that worry was something that was happening to me.
And so I continued to worry and worry and worry well into my adult life. I worried about finances. I worried about finding love. I worried about losing love. I worried about figuring out the right things to do. I worried about making the right choices. I worried about avoiding every possible unpleasantness – discomfort, pain, loss, anger, fear, death, etc.
Eventually I worried about the worry. I started to realize how awful the worry was. I started to see how the chronic worrying was taking its toll. I had terrible insomnia. I had terrible digestion. I was lying awake for hours every night, burping, straining, thinking, imagining, hoping, fearing.
My life was falling apart. I couldn’t hold it all together any longer. I worried about that too. I worried about losing my grip on so-called reality. I worried about losing my ability to keep on keeping on. And I worried about that worry.
I do not worry now.
Please understand that is not a boast. It is not something I believe makes me superior.
To be honest, there is no one here to boast about. No one to be superior.
But there is a process that I can describe that completely undoes worry. It is a worry-dissolving process.
I am sharing this with you here because I believe that if you look sincerely for yourself, you may be able to discover this process too. And if you discover this process, you too many discover that you no longer worry.
I hope so.
The process begins (and ends) with observing what I call worry – or even the hints of what I call worry – or even the faintest whiff of a hint of that.
I worried because I did not see the true nature of worry. By seeing the actual nature of the experience I called worry, the worry is undone.
So I observe the direct experience.
There is an idea – that comes from mechanical memory – that worry is a force or event or entity or some kind of external thing that is affecting me. But this direct inquiry that I am describing calls that assumption into question.
When I worried, I assumed that my mechanical memory regarding the nature of this present experience was correct. In other words, I had a thought that said that this experience is worry, and I accepted that as truth unquiestioningly.
But when I look presently – as I am inviting you to do for yourself – I can see truthfully that I do not know that this experience is worry.
Worry was a mechanical memory overlayed on the present. The present is not worry. But I cannot see the present clearly if I stop short by accepting the mechanical memory overlay.
Here’s another way to perhaps understand what I am describing. It is seeing as a child might see. If I have no past to reference or consult to give me the “answer” regarding what this present experience is, I am simply seeing.
That does not mean that mechanical memory may not be triggered. It certainly might! I can observe memories surfacing. I can observe the tendency to latch on to those memories as being useful in
“dealing with” the present.
And that is good news! Because if I simply see the memories as they are – which is memory and not the truth about now – then I necessarily also instantly am aware of my inherent freedom. I am observing the memory. I am not the memory. Neither do I need to try to distance myself or dissociate from the memory because in the simple seeing of what is as it is, I recognize that this is no threat.
Memory cannot harm me. And what is happening now is not harming me presently. So I am okay. I am free. And I am free to continue to observe.
This is important because if I “let myself off the hook” at this first glimpse, I shortchange myself. Something even richer and more rewarding is possible. And it is available when I simply remain observant.
When I say “simply remain observant”, what I mean is that I notice my reactivity. I notice compulsions to fix, figure out, get, get rid of, etc. And I allow rest rather than indulgence. Naturally, in this non-indulgence I remain effortlessly observant.
As I observe in this way, I see conditioning surfacing. Not just memory. All kinds of conditioning.
And I just notice. I notice the habits of reacting. I notice the impulse to avoid, to distract, to imagine, to armor, to protect, to pretend, to lash out, to blame, etc.
And I do nothing about them. I don’t indulge them. Neither do I resist them. I just keep telling the truth. The truth which is presently obvious, which is that I am still, restfully aware. I am neither indulgence nor resistance. I am not achieving anything. I am not winning nor losing. I am not progressing. I am not regressing.
I am simply aware of whatever is. And I am aware before, during, and after all the reactivity. The reactivity – which I previously mistook to be myself – is simply an imagination. It is not an independent reality. And it certainly has no connection whatsoever with the present reality of what is.
Because what is remains undisturbed regardless of what shows up in imagination/reactivity.
As long as I continue to observe, I continue to see this clearly. There is nothing to do. No hope of getting it right. No hope of fixing it. No hope of predicting the future accurately. No hope of knowing the correct name or identity of anything.
There is no worry here. Worry is dissolved.
This is not a trick of mind. This is the most real thing I know of. It is not about calling worry by another name. It is about seeing the reality behind or underneath or within what I called worry.
And that reality which reveals itself if and when I simply look, is empty of all that I imagined was there.
How can I worry when the fictions of threat and future and separation are exposed?
How can I worry when the fiction of my false identity is exposed?
Mechanical mind proposes countless reasons to worry. So please don’t think I’m suggesting that mechanical mind must stop. Nor must mechanical mind agree with what I see.
In fact, mechanical mind will not agree. And it will keep on doing what it does – recreating the past and calling it the pursuit of a better future.
But mechanical mind becomes my unwitting ally when I simply see. Because now, every objection of mechanical mind, every compulsion, is a gateway to happiness here now.
I see the false as false. Mechanical mind is my ally because it presents the false for me to see.
My only “job” is to remain restful.
Why get involved? Why try to protect what was a fiction from the start?
I want to share with you how I choose happiness. I hope this may be valuable to you. I hope you will be able to apply this to your life so that you might also choose happiness.
When I observe my own experience in this lifetime and when I observe what appear to be the strategies that people in this world use to try to attain happiness, I see two common categories of strategies.
One type of strategy is what I’ll call externally-focused.
The externally-focused strategies are all about manipulating external circumstances, people, and events because I (wrongly) believe that my happiness is dependent upon those external factors.
Let me give you some examples of that.
If I perceive that my bank account has too little money and that threatens my happiness, I may opt for a strategy of trying to accumulate more money.
In this example, I believe that the amount of money I have or don’t have determines my happiness. And as long as I believe that, I will remain unhappy.
I have had zero dollars to my name. And I have had hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have been unhappy in both circumstances. I have been happy in both circumstances. So the obvious truth is that how much money I have or do not have does not have anything to do with happiness.
But if I don’t recognize that *and* remain truthful to that recognition, I will be unhappy.
Here’s another example.
If I perceive that my wife is upset, I may believe that her mood determines my happiness.
If I believe that, I may try to avoid my wife. Or I may try to “make her happy” by doing “nice things”. I may waste a lot of time thinking and imagining why she is upset, taking it personally, and trying to defend myself against the invented idiocy I come up with.
But I’ve been happy when my wife is apparently upset and I’ve been unhappy when my wife is apparently upset. So the obvious truth is that my wife’s (apparent) mood has nothing to do with my happiness.
There are more examples of externally-focused strategies than I care to count. But briefly, here are a few more just to hopefully make this more clear.
If the weather is “disagreeable”, I may view the weather as an impediment to my happiness. I may waste time thinking about and imagining various “solutions” such as killing myself, moving to a better climate, gaining more money so I can buffer myself from the weather with more luxuries and distractions and comforts, etc.
If my neighbors are doing things that I find objectionable such as making loud noises, burning things that produce noxious fumes, operating a spray painting business with spray paint wafting over to me, or any of the billions of other things that neighbors might do that I might not like…I may waste time thinking about and imagining various “solutions”.
There are so many examples. I hope you get the idea.
External focus seems to be commonplace. My kids seem to be very externally focused. They argue and sometimes fight about external things that they seem to believe are impinging on their happiness. Things that can provoke this include one of them saying something, one of them wanting something, one of them getting something, one of them getting more of something, and on and on.
When I look into the world, I perceive an awful lot of external focus. It seems as though perhaps the majority are stuck in an external focus. They seem to believe that if only they can get the external stuff “right”, they will be happy. If they can get enough stuff, enough comfort, enough confirmation that they are good and right…*then* they will be happy. And as long as they aren’t getting 100% of what they think they need, they remain unhappy.
Nobody seems to get enough. Nobody seems to be able to perfect the external circumstances. And so it seems most people are unhappy.
The second type of strategy is inwardly-focused.
Inward focus strategies aim to correct some kind of inner defect. The idea is that if only I can perfect myself inwardly, then I will be happy.
Here are some examples.
If I perceive that I am not smart enough, I may waste time thinking about and imagining how I could become smarter. Or at least prove my smartness to everyone (so I can get external validation).
If I perceive that I am not healthy enough, I may waste time thinking about and imagining how I can become healthier because I wrongly believe that will make me happy.
Please note that I am not suggesting that health, wealth, supportive relationships, etc. are wrong or bad. I am simply pointing out that these are not successful strategies for happiness.
If I perceive that I am not attractive enough, I may waste time thinking about and imagining how I could become more attractive.
There are so many examples. There are more examples than I care to count.
I have used so many strategies in my life. I thought that my body shape was an impediment to happiness. I thought that I needed others to understand me (and agree with me) in order to be happy. I thought that if noises I didn’t like were happening, I couldn’t be happy. I thought that if I didn’t like my feeling state I couldn’t be happy.
On and on.
But I got REALLY tired of being unhappy. I just couldn’t take it any longer. So I got REALLY serious about being truthful.
So here’s my “strategy” for choosing happiness. So far – about seven years into this discovery – it has “worked” consistently.
My strategy for choosing happiness is to choose first and foremost to recognize the actual nature of the present experience.
And that is it. There are no further steps. Because this single step of recognizing the actual nature of the present experience instantly reveals that there is only always already happiness.
How can I recognize the actual nature of the present experience?
Here’s how. I just look.
The “that’s it” part is important. That is the key to success with this. Because if I add anything more to this, it does not work. I have to stop with the first step of just looking.
The instant I stop with just looking, I recognize my intrinsic happiness. It is not a happiness I can grasp or do anything with. I cannot carry it forward into the future. But it is reliably here whenever I simply look…and do nothing else.
So how can I simply look without adding more to it?
I look at each arising impulse. I watch each reaction. I observe my mechanical, compulsive conditioning.
It is like watching leaves floating by on a stream. I just watch. I don’t interfere. I don’t try to fix it. I don’t try to correct it. I just watch.
What do I see? I see everything I have tried to avoid. I see everything I have judged as an impediment to happiness.
I see self-condemnation, condemnation of others, resentment, anger, grief, hatred, rejection, wanting, longing, craving, fear, anxiety, pain. On and on.
This is everything I have tried to avoid. I just watch. I don’t get involved. I don’t try to fix it. I don’t try to avoid it. I don’t try to put a positive spin on it. I don’t look for the silver lining. I don’t justify my pain, resentments, or any of it. I don’t look for reasons. I don’t blame others. I don’t blame myself.
I do not get involved in any way. But I see my habits of trying to get involved. I see and FEEL how scared I am not to get involved.
I am scared not to get involved. I am afraid that if I don’t get involved I will suffer or die or be really cold or starve or be rejected or whatever else I might imagine.
But I am so completely tired of unhappiness I refuse to indulge the old habits. I simply won’t waste time doing more of the same thing and expecting different results. I tried to avoid fear and only got unhappiness for it. I tried to avoid discomfort and only got unhappiness for it.
Seeing this clearly, I simply remain still and observant. I just watch/observe/perceive/feel this direct experience as it is.
I don’t label it. I don’t compare it.
I just observe. Like leaves floating by on a stream.
Come what may, I remain restfully observant.
Not because I am a saint! Oh no! I am no saint. I remain restfully observant only because anything else hurts too much! It is because of my WEAKNESS that I remain restfully observant.
And I sometimes get spooked and metaphorically cover my eyes or run away.
But it hurts. So I stop. And restfully observe.
And reliably what I discover is innate happiness.
And by the way, I find it to be very helpful to be physically still. I observe all the physical compulsions, the tics, the habits of squirming and squeezing. And I do not indulge those either.
I hope this is valuable to you.
Also, if you have not been participating in my Weekday Somatics video series, please do check it out. These videos offer guided inquiries that may help to make clearer what I am writing about. You can find them on my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHWqv85G7XgrMg408cHrsag
Stillness. That’s one of those words that gets thrown around a lot. But what does it really point to?
I’ve come to appreciate the immense value of what authentic teachers can offer with their pointings. When someone (an authentic teacher) has a direct experience of something I value and want to directly experience, I am wise to listen as clearly as I can to the teacher.
But I’m not talking about “listening” with the conditioned mind. Because that kind of “listening” is not listening at all. That is only self-referencing.
Self-referencing is a closed loop. It is stale. No newness can enter it except by chance/divine intervention or choice/divine intervention.
That intervention that introduces newness requires looking beyond the mirror of conditioned mind. It requires looking beyond the beliefs, reactions, thoughts, memories, and all the mechanical regurgitation of conditioned mind.
To listen truly is to look beyond that self-referencing mirror of mind.
That mirror mind is very much like a hall of mirrors. It can distort the reflection, make it all out of proportion, and provoke either horror or humor. But all it is reflecting is my existing self-image.
What is beyond the mirror mind? I must look honestly to discover.
Authentic teachers point to what is beyond mirror mind. And the most skillful teachers point skillfully, using language wisely, providing clear instruction and description.
But ultimately, it is not the teacher who does the looking for me. Only I can look. No matter how skillful the teacher, if I refuse to look honestly and openly and willingly, I will not see beyond mirror mind. I cannot rightly blame anyone else for that.
Now, back to this pointer of stillness. Teachers speak of it. They point. But am I looking?
If I gloss over the word, settle for my idea of stillness, I am not looking beyond mirror mind. I am looking only to mirror mind in that case. Mirror mind says, “I know what stillness is. I had an experience of it once. I’ve read about it. I have thought about it a lot. I’ve tried really hard to understand it.”
Mirror mind is symbol mind. Symbols in place of reality as it is.
Mirror mind is past mind.
Mirror mind is thought mind.
Mirror mind is fear mind.
If I think I know what stillness is, I am consulting mirror mind.
If I think I might know about stillness in the future, I am consulting mirror mind. If I think that there are conditions, things I must achieve or do first before I can earn that future stillness, I am consulting mirror mind.
Mirror mind is conditional mind.
Right now. The authentic teachers invite me to look right now. They promise me it is here now. They promise it is unconditional.
So let me look in this way! Let me look now in this way. Let me truly listen to the teachers.
Right now I look as they instruct. Look here. Look now. Look unconditionally. Look without turning to past, thought, memory.
And look without desire.
Now that I am looking as they say, I look in the way they point when they speak of stillness.
They are promising that stillness is here now. Stillness is unconditional. I don’t need to do anything to earn it. I cannot attain it in the future. It does not have an opposite.
So I trust the teachers and look in the way they say. And it is like a riddle. Can I be aware now of what is unconditionally present? Can I recognize what is untouched by memory, thought, reaction, event, condition, or anything else?
This is what the teachers are inviting me to do. So I take them up on the offer here and now. I look in this way now.
Stillness. They tell me that the word is a pointer. It is not the actuality of what is being pointed to.
But this word is not random. Stillness hints at something. There is a reason the teachers use this word and not “pepperoni pizza”. The word “stillness” points to something. There is a thread that connects my worldly, conditioned sense of stillness with the reality they are pointing to.
Let me follow that thread. Let me look in the way they suggest – here, now, unconditionally, without thought, without past – and let me follow the thread, the clue, they offer me with this word.
Stillness. Let me look to my experience of stillness. Does stillness exist for me? Is it a reality?
The closest approximation I can find in my experience to stillness is this: non-efforting.
In other words, when I cease to make effort, I am still.
I can become physically still by not making unnecessary effort. I simply observe the compulsions to move, to adjust, to fix, to correct, to get comfortable.
And I can see what this shows me, which is that none of my compulsive efforts have ever satisfied. None have worked adequately. All of them continue.
So now I am curious about the actual nature of the compulsions. Do I need to make that movement now? Could I rest from that for just another moment? And then see what happens?
I wait. I rest from activity. I rest observing stillness. I observe stillness by observing anything that appears not to be stillness. Every compulsion appears to be other than stillness. So I rest and observe each compulsion.
Each compulsion arises and falls. I am still.
Each compulsion reveals subtler and subtler aspects of itself. Physical tics yield to urges to scratch yield to fearful thoughts. Subtler and subtler. And I am watching, still.
The teachers pointed. I looked as they instructed.
When I started looking for myself, I expected to find something excellent. I thought I would find out that I am greatness, success, beauty, charm, richness, etc.
And that wrong expectation was the main reason I struggled so much in the search.
You see, it seems that the actual answer to “Who am I?” has been staring me in the face all along. But I didn’t want to see it.
I tried really, really hard not to see it. Because the truthful answer completely undoes the wrong assumption that I started from.
And the undoing of that wrong assumption is what I call pain. I think I don’t like it. I think it will destroy me.
And it will. It will.
But just not like I think.
What is plainly obvious upon actually looking is this: there are two highly disturbing and truthful answers to “Who am I?”
The first obvious answer is this: I don’t know.
I don’t know who I am. That is plainly obvious. Isn’t it plainly obvious? I mean, do you know who you are?
I don’t know who I am.
I could pretend that I do. Like so many people seem to do. Fake it until they make it…
But I only ever faked it. I never actually made it. I never made it to the successful one who I thought I should be.
So the plain truth is that I don’t know who I am. I invested most of my lifetime faking someone I was not. That is all I can actually say truthfully in that regard.
The second truthful and plainly obvious answer is this: I am a mess. I am a failure. I am anxiety. I am compulsive. I am asleep. I am mechanical. I am pain.
But this I that is a mess, failure, anxious, etc. is not what I *truly* am because I don’t know what I truly am.
So this I that is a mess, etc. is the truth of the I – let’s call it “me” – that I can wrongly identify as.
Me is pain. Me is a mess. Me is asleep.
Me is mechanical reactivity. Me is unconscious and completely incapable of consciousness.
Me is everything I have called myself. Even if I have called myself great. Even if I have called myself a success. Whatever I have called myself is this mechanical unconsciousness. Anything I can call myself is an idea or symbol borrowed from the dead past.
And I don’t like that dead past. It is a graveyard of disasters and disappointments and fears.
So now I have it. These two plain and obvious answers.
The second of these obvious answers is the one that I have unconsciously, mechanically, and PREDICTABLY opted for over and over again. I have done so while calling it pleasure, spiritual experience, growth, “the right thing”, and so forth. But in truth it is pain. In truth it is mechanical and dead.
The only reason I can see for choosing the second answer is a lack of seeing it for what it is. If I call it good or desirable or safe and I settle for that, I overlook its true nature. I don’t see that it is pain.
But I suffer in that case. I suffer because I get pain when I expect pleasure. And I don’t see that I am doing it to myself.
Now in this moment I can see. I can choose now to see. I can see that wrongly identifying as anything that comes and goes and expecting anything but temporary experience and anxiety as a result is insane.
If I can see that I am insane, I am not what is insane. I can see the mechanical nature playing out, therefore I am not that.
But clearly I am not separate from that.
I don’t know what I am. But I am that without knowing what that is.
Seeing me as pain and unconsciousness, I am freed of the delusion that I am what I think I am.
I do not know what I am, but I am not what I think I am. I am free.
Free of what I see. Free of mechanical mind. Free of memory. Free of sensation.
Yet free with and as whatever is.
I am free of the worry that I must be somebody. Even as the worry arises, I am free. I see it, therefore I am not it. But neither am I separate from it.
I rest and observe. This present experience – whether I call it worry or anxiety or fear or rage or grief or excitement or love – reveals its true nature. Empty of what I think it is. I am that. I am also empty of what I think I am.
No matter how much I do, there always remains so much more that I have not done.
Compared to all that is possible – which appears to be infinite (or at least practically infinite) – all that I will ever do or accomplish or experience is so infinitesimally small that it is insignificant.
And more importantly, the more I crave to do more or experience more, the more unpleasant my experience seems to be.
For me, this is a very significant insight. For me, this is a liberating insight.
At least, it is potentially liberating.
Whether I recognize and actually experience that liberation seems to depend on what I do with that insight.
If I try to do something with the insight, I am back on the vicious cycle of craving and suffering. Craving for more or different but running up against my complete inability to ever succeed in generating satisfaction.
I crave more and different, but that more and different is wrong-minded. I am ignorant when I crave more and different because more and different are not what I truly want.
What I truly want is satisfaction, contentment, peace. What I actually want is non-craving.
So clearly, when I believe that my craving can give me what I want (non-craving), I am delusional.
But good news! When I recognize this delusion I am instantly freed.
When I see this, I am freed of the delusional pursuit of what won’t satisfy. At least, I am freed from the entirely unconscious and compulsive pursuit of what won’t satisfy.
I am conditioned to wrongly believe that I can accumulate enough of some kind of experience to achieve satisfaction. But when I see clearly here and now that no matter how much experience I accumulate, none of it truly satisfies, my blinders are momentarily removed.
And in this clear moment I have a choice. Before this moment, I did not have a choice. I was compulsively reacting out of ignorance. But in this moment here now, seeing clearly that I cannot succeed in my delusional pursuit because it is entirely wrong-minded, I am free to choose.
I am free here now to choose to remain with this open clarity, this non-grasping, non-craving that reveals itself in the light of clear seeing.
Still, that conditioning screams that remaining with this open clarity is impossible, that it is strenuous, that it requires great effort, that it is conditional, that I have to maintain it, that I have to earn it.
Hence the choice. I can choose to indulge the wrong-mindedness and drift back into delusion-land, wrongly thinking that if only I can get enough of the right kind of experience I will finally be satisfied.
Or I can choose to remain in the clarity of powerlessness and failure.
I am powerless to help myself. When I try to help myself, I am operating from delusion and I only experience pain and suffering as a result. Every attempt I make to get it right is a failure.
Everything I have mistakenly identified as depends upon my success. My entire identity is made up only of the delusion that I can succeed.
When I rest in this open clarity presently, all that I have identified as is destroyed. It cannot stand up to the light of truth. The light of truth here now reveals it is all a lie. I will never win. I will never achieve happiness. I will never generate satisfaction.
When I look honestly at my life to see if I have ever experienced satisfaction, I can see that I have had glimpses, tastes of satisfaction in spite of my compulsive wrong-minded attempts. And I become curious to see if there is a thread that runs throughout all those glimpses.
The thread that I notice is this: those momentary tastes of satisfaction occur in moments when my compulsive striving for satisfaction falls away. It is not my doing that resulted in a taste of satisfaction. Rather, it is the absence of craving that reveals satisfaction.
When I acknowledge the truth of that here now and surrender to this great unknowing, every metaphorical boogieman, every reaction, every so-called negative emotion reveals satisfaction.
Even more to the point: when I remain quiet and still enough to see the actual nature of what I call craving, the craving itself is revealed to be satisfaction. I discover through direct experience here now that I cannot grasp satisfaction successfully, but I can surrender the grasping now and know satisfaction intimately.
For me, this is a great blessing. This is available to a compulsive, impulsive, slow-witted, mean-spirited, spiteful person like me. I don’t have to sit on a meditation cushion for thousands of hours to gain the benefits of this. I don’t have to be really smart.
All I have to do is look honestly at what is actually happening. I just have to be willing to tell the truth. I just have to see that all of my efforts have been complete failures when it comes to delivering true satisfaction. In fact, all my efforts have produced only suffering.
And then in the light and clarity of that truth, I need do nothing. I don’t need to understand anything. I don’t need to practice anything. I don’t need to earn anything. I need only to remain truthful.
For me, especially at first when I start to receive the deeper truth of this, I need to choose restful stillness. If I move too quickly mentally, physically, emotionally, or otherwise, I tend to start grasping and craving without even recognizing it.
So I often remain still and silent to remain in the clear light of truth. From this stillness and silence, I find it easier to see and recognize craving as it arises. And I can choose wisely and do nothing.
I sincerely hope these words are helpful pointers for you to look in this way and see if you too might discover this possibility in your life.
P.S. – Since I’m delivering this message to you, let me take a moment to mention that I’ve started a new video series called “Weekday Somatics”. These are 30(ish)-minute-long somatic inquiries that I’m offering for anyone who is interested. You can find them on my YouTube channel. The first of them is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v00RqYRH9u8 I find these inquiries to be valuable. I hope you do too.