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Do a Google search for “what is the meaning of life.” You’ll find that people seriously want to know. Heck, some day someone might even find this post because they Googled “what is the meaning of life!”
The trouble with the question is that it presupposes that there is meaning.
Right now, do this simple experiment. Notice that there is something before thought. And then notice that there is something before that. And something before that. Until you cannot go any further “back” – until you cannot get any closer to what is immediate, direct, and unavoidable.
What is this? This is before thought. It is before sensation. It is before experience. It is before anything and everything. But it is not a thing.
Can you find anything else? Is there more than one of this no-thing?
Can you find a boundary?
This is the only “thing” that you cannot deny. This is completely unavoidable. This is completely ordinary. It’s not something that you have to reach for or work for or hold on to. You cannot get rid of this. Because this is yourself.
And what is the meaning of this?
Notice that in order to search for meaning you have to compare. You have to search in thought. You have to look to the past.
But where is all of this happening? Isn’t it happening in this that you are?
Everything is this. This is the “one without a second.”
A dog can chase his tail. But there is only the one dog.
Alan Watts wrote of peering through a slit in a fence and seeing a cat walking by. From this perspective it may appear that there is a head, a body, and a tail. You may then wonder if the head causes the body and the body causes the tail. But it’s one cat!
In direct experience there is just this. All seeming separation is merely thought arising as this present wholeness. All seeming meaning is merely thought arising as this present wholeness.
Many people seem to imagine that meaning is what gives life beauty. But I find that, in fact, meaning does not give beauty to life. Beauty is inherent in life. Beauty is spontaneous. Beauty is evident in the absence of meaning. Notice that some of the most beautiful moments are those in which the moment utterly defies all attempts to saddle it with meaning.
So discover a life without meaning. Just be curious to find out for yourself. It’s not about belief. I’m not suggesting that you take on a new belief. Just see what life is like beyond belief.
I was at the grocery store yesterday and I picked up a copy of a free copy of a publication called EnergyTimes. This is one of those sorts of publications that fronts as a magazine with genuine, unbiased articles. But actually, it’s just a collection of advertisements.
I was attracted to the magazine because it has a big picture of Jim Carrey on the cover. I don’t pay any attention to politics or Hollywood, generally-speaking, so I missed out on the fact that Jim Carrey had a massive public spiritual awakening (whatever that means) with Eckhart Tolle a few years ago. A friend of mine recently kept making reference to Jim Carrey and spiritual awakening, which I thought was odd because I had missed out on this bit of information. But in a few seconds the whole thing was explained to me, and now I’m caught up.
So I was curious to see what was the magazine had to say about Jim Carrey. But then I saw the advertisements. And that (the content of the advertisements) is what the remainder of this post is about – not Jim Carrey.
When I picked up the magazine and turned it over I saw a full-page advertisement for so-called “cleanse” products – capsules of herbs that are promoted as “cleansing” the body of all kinds of toxins and “build-up”.
Walk into any natural food store and you see plenty of these sorts of things. Candida cleanses. Colon cleanses. Liver cleanses.
The problem with these products is that they are marketed to people for whom the last thing they need is a “cleanse.” These products are meant to appeal to people who are trying to lose weight and/or become more “pure”. In other words – people with eating disorders.
And, by the way, if you think that you’re the exception, then think again. If these products appeal to you then I’m willing to bet that you’re dealing with an eating disorder, even if you don’t know it.
The body is terrifically good at cleansing on its own…when it gets adequate nutrition and opportunity to de-stress.
Really. Under these conditions of adequate nutrition and the opportunity to de-stress your body will be perfectly healthy.
These cleanses have been around for a long time. They used to target the most neurotic among us. I know, because that was me. They used to (and presumably still do) target potential clients with scare tactics – absolutely disgusting advertisements in alternative publications claiming that if you have ever eaten flour or sugar or meat or dairy then your colon is undoubtedly coated in a thick “mucoid plaque” that is slowly killing you. But miraculously, when you cease to eat anything other than raw vegetables and fruit and (most important of all) take the “cleanse” pills then you will shed this life-threatening toxic build-up and be cured of everything from diabetes to cancer to migraines.
But now the market is ripe. Everyone is primed. The magazines and TV shows and the medical establishment has convinced everyone and their mother that they are fat, have life-threatening high cholesterol, eat all the wrong things, and need to “cleanse.” But this is utter bullshit.
All the dieting and starving and over-exercising and undersleeping and over-stressing is the problem, and the “cleanses” are just more problem, not a solution.
Trust me. I know from personal experience.
The digestive system, including the colon and the liver and all the other organs supposedly “cleansed” by these products, doesn’t need more irritants and laxatives and purgatives and less nutrition. It needs more nourishment. It needs adequate quality protein and fat and carbohydrates. Including meat, dairy, sugar, and so on. Not just raw broccoli. Seriously. And no amount of rhubarb root or psyllium husk or senna leaf is going to solve the problem caused by inadequate nutrition. And, by the way, 1600 calories is likely far too little unless you happen to be about 3 1/2 feet tall.
And adequate de-stressing and rest is also absolutely necessary. So if you’re sleeping 6 hours a day or going to the gym every day or running every day or if you’re still hanging on to hurts and anger and resentment and shame and trauma…even just a little bit…then no amount of rhubarb root or psyliium husk or senna leaf is going to solve that problem.
Try sleeping at least 8 hours every single night. Try leaving off the gym and the running for a little while. And learn how to let go of all that emotional baggage. (I recommend that you check out the 100% free training at Peaceful Possibility for this. It’s the very best!)
Seriously. Don’t be duped by these products, the marketing, or anything or anyone else. There is nothing dirty or unacceptable or wrong with you. You are a perfect, beautiful, amazing, radiant being. No one and nothing can take that away from you. That is who you are.
When I speak of truth, I’m not talking about relative truth. I’m talking about what cannot be denied – what we might call absolute truth. If you turn to your thoughts to try and find real truth then you’ll convince yourself that there is no such thing. Either that or you’ll become a convert to a fundamentalist religion.
But truth is utterly simple. It is so simple that it cannot be denied. There is absolutely no way to argue against truth. That’s why it is truth. It is the only thing that is incontrovertible. Truth is that this is. That is it. Not that this is something-or-other. Just that this is. Not what this is. Not the name of this. Not what this is not. Merely that this is. Merely that I am. Merely that you are. Before any thought or idea or concept about what any of that means. Truth is before meaning.
This is not a secret. It is obvious to everyone. We all are. None of us can deny that we are -that being exists. This is the one thing that we all know and that we all experience endlessly.
Sure, you can try to deny this. You can try to raise objections. You can create convoluted philosophical arguments. But while you’re doing all that, you are.
And the simple fact that you are is the one thing that you repeatedly dismiss and overlook. Why? Because being is meaningless. It has no meaning. It is before thought. It is before meaning.
So if you haven’t yet, just check right now and see if you do, in fact, exist. I’m not talking about the you that you think you are – because that you doesn’t exist. That is merely a fabrication. But you cannot deny that you are. There is presence, being, existence here right now.
You cannot capture this in thought. But you already are this. So there is no need to capture it.
The simple fact is that the only truth that is, is something that each of us already is. We cannot ever not be. You can only imagine that you could not be. But that is just a thought arising presently in this that you are. You can argue that once you’re dead then you won’t be. But since you’re arguing that right now it is completely irrelevant. Argue it when you’re dead.
There is only being.
Because we all are already and because this can never be taken away (because it is not a thing and because this is all that is) then this is not something you can sell to people. If you can sell it then it’s a thing. You can sell spirituality. You can sell enlightenment. You can sell therapy. You can sell (the idea of) happiness. You can sell all kinds of things. But you cannot sell a no-thing.
You can only be. Finally, this is the relief that you’ve wanted. This is even better than the most restful sleep. But not as you imagine it to be. Simply as it is.
I used to imagine that I had to be someone – that I had to have a coherent identity. And then I realized that there is no such thing. It’s all an illusion.
For one, there is no central thing around which a supposed coherent identity would form. Take a look. Where is this person that you imagine yourself to be? Can you find this person?
Still, I had this funny lingering notion that I had to have a coherent message at least. And this led to some strange sense of inner conflict. Here on this blog I express lots of different ideas ranging from physical health to mental health to emotional health to what we might call non-dual awareness as well as anything else that I want to write about. And especially in light of the fact that so-called non-duality is ultimately the realization that there is only this, there has only ever been this, and it is not happening to anyone, then writing about things such as physical and emotional health may seen incongruent. After all, if there’s no one for these things to happen to and no one to do anything about any of it, then why write about the health of the (non-existent) individual?
Plus, I’ve recently completed work on the first phase of a project over at Peaceful Possibility. And in that video training I suggest that there may be specific practices that one can do to discover true freedom (which ultimately is awakening to non-dual perception – the simplicity of being.) So this also may seem incongruent. And yet it’s not.
The recognition of the simplicity being is the clear seeing of what is as it is – which is one wholeness happening here and how. Congruence requires more than one. It requires a comparison. Clarity reveals that there is only this.
And here is peace. No split. No divide. No separation. Nothing to defend.
I see so many teachers and politicians with tremendous PR efforts working overtime. Trying to craft a coherent, congruent image. I understand that this is popular. But it’s not honest.
And we all seem to follow suit. We all seem to imagine that we have to present a coherent image to the world. We dress in a consistent fashion. We style our hair in a consistent fashion. We speak in a consistent fashion. We behave in a consistent fashion.
But it is all just an illusion. Where is the person that all of this supposedly refers to? Where is the central figure? Where is the one who can be liked or disliked or approved of or disapproved of? It’s all a fiction.
The prison of your mind is a fiction. It’s not real. Just meet what is as it is in this moment. Right now. Let go. See yourself as you are. Formless.
I’ll admit that I hadn’t read or watched The Secret until yesterday. I already knew the premise. I used to live in Southern California, and I attended Michael Beckwith’s church (Agape Internatiional Spiritual Center) in Culver City more than once. I was a regular at the North Hollywood church of Religious Science where I studied for a few years to become a practitioner within the organization. And I grew up, more or less, attending a Unity church. I’ve read Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer. I’m hardly new to the secret of The Secret. So I had just felt that I didn’t really need to read or watch The Secret in order to catch the drift.
What I discovered years ago was that no matter how much I succeeded with the so-called Law of Attraction, I would never be truly fulfilled so long as I was seeking something. I saw that the seeking itself was the real problem. (Strangely, I didn’t take the direct route and just ditch the seeking right then and there!) Eventually this realization led me to years of misery still seeking through what I considered to be more pure forms of “spirituality” such as non-duality or advaita. But honestly, I don’t recommend such a path if you can avoid it! As I said, it was miserable. I was a mess before non-duality. After non-duality I got much worse. Before non-duality I was merely unhappy and anorexic with mild OCD. After non-duality I became absolutely terrified of everything. My days were absolutely packed full of suffering and anguish. My thought tubes got so clogged up and constipated that I couldn’t even sleep. I would just sit in “meditation” – which really meant that I was trying to calm down.
So whether you’re a Law of Attraction genius who is somehow still dissatisfied with your experience or your a non-duality nut, I’ve got some potentially useful insights for you that can save you a great deal of unnecessary suffering if you can really receive them.
As I said, I hadn’t watched The Secret…until yesterday. I found it on YouTube. It’s 90 minutes. And frankly, there’s no way I’d sit through that much bullshit. But the good news is that I have a little utility called Enounce MySpeed that lets me playback video at up to 5 times speed. So I was able to watch the video in under half an hour. Even sped up, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the whole thing. I admit that I left off the last 15 minutes or so.
The production of the video is over the top. It’s totally nuts. And it is way too overly complicated. The so-called Law of Attraction is a fabrication. But there is an underlying principle that the Law of Attraction exploits unknowingly (and inefficiently.) That underlying principle is what i intend to reveal to you.
When I was a kid there used to be arcade-style video games in the entrance ways of many stores. Grocery stores. Walmarts. Even some convenience stores. They cost a quarter per play back then. I didn’t often have quarters. But I could often have fun just standing there and pretending that I was playing the game. The displays would typically run sequences that simulated game play while not otherwise in use. So I could move the joystick and press the buttons and pretend that I was controlling the game.
Sometimes it even seemed like I really was controlling the game.
But I wasn’t. It was just happening.
The underlying principle that I want to share with you is that everything is happening. It is one happening. There is nothing apart from this. And you can know this directly right now, in an instant. Simply give your attention to your direct experience instead of turning to thought to give you meaning.
The way in which the Law of Attraction exploits this principle is this: when you focus on what you think you want, really feeling it and imagining it as if it is already true, then you shift your story. You begin to see new patterns. You necessarily are NOT focusing on other things. And so this can have the apparent effect (though really there is always just this) of letting go of some (unwanted) patterns and habits. The focusing on what you want is actually incidental to the benefits that you may seem to receive from this practice. It is the letting go that is the true benefit because this tunes you in to the actuality that what is happening is all that is.
The pursuit of what you want merely sets up this vicious cycle of unfulfillment. The reality is that life is always happening. It is one happening. It is happening always in this ever-present moment. There is nothing else. And so pursuing something, seeking something, is futile. And this is a recipe for suffering.
The mistake that people can make is turning this whole thing into a false dichotomy – imagining that if pursuing something or seeking is bad (which it is not…I didn’t say that) then having no ambition is good. But you cannot have no ambition. And the opposite of seeking isn’t living in poverty.
What I’m pointing to is that much like the arcade games I “played” as a kid, life is happening. When you let go of the illusion that you are doing it then you discover that it is simply happening as it always has been. And all the meaning that you’ve given to all of it is seen for what it is – illusion. There is no meaning. There is only joy.
When you let go of the illusion that you are doing it, then you get to discover life as it truly is. And this doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily fall into poverty and become a crack addict. It just means that you get to see that it’s not about you. It never has been. There is no you for it to be about. It’s all one happening. And “you” are that happening.
It is possible that the happening will look like you as a crack addict. It is possible that the happening will look like you as a billionaire with a happy family. But just start to notice how your beliefs about life cloud your vision of what is. You don’t see what is. You just see what you believe. The Law of Attraction teaches you how to change those beliefs. (At least to a degree. There’s always a limit within belief.) But why settle for changing beliefs? True abundance, true love, true happiness is already here. And it becomes obvious when you stop looking for it elsewhere.
Here’s a related video I did on the Law of Attraction. In the video I approach the subject slightly differently, but ultimately I’m pointing to the same thing – that there is just this, and that it is evident when you cease to search for something else.
I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful place close to the natural world. This is the way I like to live. After having been in cities for much of my life, I intentionally have chosen to live close to the natural world.
I live in a small anyon surrounded by juniper, pine, and rabbitbrush. There’s a creek that runs outside my front door.
Just a few minutes ago I went outside for a short walk. I walked along the creek, and stopped next to a juniper. Turning to the juniper, I received this wonderful communication on the simplicity of being.
You know, it’s interesting, because somehow, I used to imagine that one day in the future I would suddenly reach a final destination – something called awakening or enlightenment. But in my experience, awakening to the simplicity of being is merely the recognition that there is nothing final. What is, is eternal and timeless. There is no end to it. And even the end of suffering isn’t so much an end as it is merely the recognition that there never was anything other than this.
So in my experience every moment is an endless discovery of what is – of being myself. And it is lovely how everything and everyone becomes clearly a messenger of the simplicity of being. So I turn to the juniper, and I see the naturalness with which juniper expresses. There is no inhibition. There is no fear of judgment. There is just pure, raw, aliveness.
Cut a juniper and the juniper keeps growing as best it can. Juniper will grow out of the rocks and out of the sides of the wall of earth cut away by the creek.
The natural world (of which we are not apart) is unashamed of being.
Lately I’ve been working on figuring out how to reach to people who will be receptive and who are seeking for the message that I have to share. This is an interesting process. Through this I have encountered many of the old habits in which I have held myself, imagining that there is someone to defend or protect. As if I need to be concerned about what others think of me.
This is a fun process because it is about meeting everything as the perfect stillness of being that welcomes home every splintered aspect, every notion of separation. And it is effortless.
There are 7.2 billion humans on the planet. How often do you hold yourself back because you’re afraid of what a handful of them might think about you? What about the many people who would benefit from your wisdom and your message? All the people who don’t hear your wisdom or message because you hold yourself back?
So my message for you from juniper is to be unashamed of being. Be yourself. Let them chop you down. Let go of all your pride and arrogance. Just be. And let being move you and shape you and give you strength. Share your light and your wisdom by being yourself.
We all have ideas about what happiness will look like. We imagine that it will look like the perfect circumstances – the ideal body or the ideal job or the dream car or the vacation in the Bahamas. But true happiness looks like exactly this. True happiness is right now. In fact, the pursuit of happiness is the only seeming obstacle to true happiness.
But this cannot be! Surely happiness is dependent on circumstances. Perhaps it doesn’t require a sweet vacation in the Bahamas. But at least it requires relative security and safety. Right? I mean, Maslow tells us of the hierarchy of needs. And that seems sensible enough. So isn’t happiness dependent on some circumstances, maybe even if not the exacting types of circumstances we imagine are necessary? Is true happiness possible when a gun is against your head? What about when your loved ones have just been killed? What about abject poverty? Surely these types of circumstances prevent true happiness.
Well, I’ve not experienced every possible set of circumstances. So I cannot state authoritatively that there are no circumstances that prevent true happiness. But I doubt it. The reason I believe that nothing can prevent true happiness is because in my own experience true happiness isn’t about the circumstances. it’s about meeting all circumstances exactly as they are rather than how I imagine them to be. There turns out to be a HUGE difference between what we typically think about circumstances and what things actually are. And this difference, in my experience, is the difference between suffering and true happiness.
I’ve heard it said that true happiness is not about getting what you want, but loving what you get. Although I think that particular wording can be misleading, I generally agree with this sentiment. Because in my experience true happiness has everything to do with how one perceives what is. I discovered true happiness when I discovered that I am true happiness already – that nothing can be added to that. In this awareness there is no need to improve circumstances in order to achieve happiness because happiness is already present. This doesn’t mean one might not have ambitions and goals and desires for relative circumstantial improvements. It just means that there is clarity about what will be gained or lost in all these pursuits – and that happiness cannot be lost nor gained.
This post was inspired by a photo that my friend, Brian Marc Zimberg, sent me in an email yesterday. He must have been searching for photos of me on the internet, and he came across the image to the right. That’s from 2008. I was speaking at a conference in Pittsburgh. In some ways I was on top of the world at that point. At least in terms of circumstances. I had half a million dollars in the bank. I owned my own business. I could write my own ticket most places and most of the time. I was invited to speak at conferences around the world. My circumstances were pretty good by most standards. But I was miserable. And although I contend that happiness doesn’t look a certain way (in that there’s no circumstances that dictate happiness) I will say that true happiness expressing does have a look. And you can see from that photograph that I wasn’t expressing true happiness. I was miserable. I was anorexic. I was obsessive. I was dominated by compulsive rituals. I was fearful. I was terrified of life.
Here’s a photograph taken just a few days ago. I lost my business in 2009. I was horrifically sick with Lyme disease from 2010 until 2012. My bank account today is a tiny fraction of what it was in 2008. I’m no longer invited to speak at conferences in exotic locations. I live in a small, one-room house with my partner and our two children and our dog. But you can see, that I’m happy. This isn’t a happiness that depends on anything. This is a happiness that springs forth from the depths of emptiness and nothingness. There is no longer anyone or anything to defend or to gratify. And this happiness allows everything. It isn’t afraid of anger or sadness or sickness or loss.
But don’t be deceived into thinking that any of this means that you aren’t true happiness just because you still perceive that you are seeking for happiness. It just means that seeking is happening, and that seeking obscures clear seeing of ever-present true happiness. Everything that I have written in this post is just words that points to something. The words themselves are misleading. It seems inevitable that this is so. Language presumes a subject and an object and personal experience. But that is misleading. True happiness isn’t something that I have. It isn’t something that I have obtained. It isn’t something that I get to experience, even, despite the fact that I speak of it in this way. In truth, happiness is what is. And true happiness is all-inclusive. it isn’t limited to a particular sensation that you think of as happiness. It includes both that and everything else, including what you think of as sadness or anger. It’s what is present before, during, and after all of that. True happiness is the field of awareness from which all else springs forth. When you cease to seek for happiness then happiness is evident.
Of course, you cannot do the stopping of the search for happiness. Any doing is more seeking. And true stopping isn’t a doing. It’s the absence of doing. Happiness is what is present before, during, and after all doing. To know this directly right now all you need do is stop seeking. Stopping is not an action. It is the absence of action. And when you stop then what is clear is that there never was anyone doing. Doing simply arises in the field of awareness that you are. Doing is not personal. Suffering is not personal. Happiness is not personal. None of it is personal. It is just happening. And strangely, it is possible for nothingness to recognize itself as nothingness. This happens in an instant. And that instant is now. It is always now. When you see this…or rather, when this is seen…then it is possible that clarity remains as clarity regardless of what else is happening – even seeming seeking.
Yeah. It’s confusing. That’s because it’s not something you can understand. But you can experience it directly right now. Just notice right now where your thoughts come from. See how they arise from nothingness. See how this is all always happening right now in this empty field of awareness. Do this right now. It doesn’t require any effort. All that you need do is turn your attention to its source. See yourself as you are. You cannot see this as you normally see. You can see this by resting in the source of seeing. This is who you are.
I know what it’s like. You’re hoping that you’ll become perfect some day. And until then, you’re going to keep beating yourself up for all your imperfections.
But what does it mean to be perfect? It’s nonsense. It’s just more seeking. It’s just a way of putting off true happiness.
Part of the problem is that are allowed to imagine that there are perfected beings somewhere. We imagine that Paramahansa Yogananda never had a wet dream. We imagine that Ramana Maharshi had a completely silenced mind. We imagine that Eckhart Tolle never has a single thought. But this is not a mature way of seeing things. And neither is it a mature way for people to represent themselves or others.
Part of the problem is that some of these supposed perfected beings have organizations built up around them. These people’s jobs depend on the organization being financially successful. That means good marketing and good PR. But it also means misrepresentation. We’re given a very crafted view into the lives of these people. It’s not the whole truth. It’s just a partial truth.
Do I disagree with the essential message that Gangaji shares or that Eckhart Tolle shares? No. But the message isn’t enough. We need a new level of transparency from our teachers. Not that I’m suggesting that these teachers are doing anything wrong. But I’m suggesting that for those who are seeking it is better to find teachers who are more transparent because this helps to clear away the misunderstandings.
If all we see of a teacher is what we see in meetings or events, then we may get a very distorted view, particularly if the events are staged. And again, I’m not suggesting that there’s something wrong with staged events. To some degree it’s inevitable because there’s a certain protocol to an event that dictates that people take on roles. There’s the teacher and the students or the speaker and the audience. This creates a disconnect. The students or the audience then is allowed to imagine that the speaker or the teacher is something special in some way. And in their imaginations they come up with what that something special might be. Because there isn’t greater transparency then imaginations run wild.
So I’m going to let you in on a secret. Every human is just human. Those who are free of suffering are just as human as you. They shit too. They get angry too. They make mistakes. They aren’t superhuman. They’re just human. They are fallible.
The difference between those who don’t suffer and those who do isn’t that one group is particularly special or different. It’s just that those who don’t suffer stopped believing that there’s anyone to suffer. That’s all. And when there’s no one to suffer then nothing sticks. Everything is happening. And none of it is personal. And you cannot get that by emulating their behavior. Because by and large it has nothing to do with behavior. At least not from anything you can observe.
When you’re confused and in the dark about this, when you still imagine that there’s someone to suffer, then you will try to emulate behavior. Even though I tell you not to. You’ll do it anyway. I know, because I did that too. But believe me, it has nothing to do with whether you are celibate or not or vegetarian or not or wear flowing clothing or not or practice meditation or not. Nothing you can do will give you want you are seeking.
The only thing that will give you what you are seeking is the end of seeking. And that is not something you do. It is something that you stop doing. It is not something that requires effort. It is the absence of effort.
But in the confused state you will likely imagine that what is effortless is effortful and what is effortful is effortless.
So let me point you in the right direction.
Right now, notice that things are happening. Your heart is beating. Sounds are happening. Eyes are blinking. Thoughts are arising. Sensations are happening. It’s all happening without effort. This is always already the case.
Notice that you attempt to figure it out and make sense of it. Notice that your attention goes to thought about what it means. Notice that the thought “thoughts are the problem, I must stop my thoughts” is just another thought. Notice that you cannot stop your thoughts. Notice that all of this is just happening. And notice that when you let it all go, it happens all the same.
Notice that the only difference between holding on and letting go is that letting go is real and involves no suffering. Holding on doesn’t create someone to suffer. It just presupposes someone to suffer. There’s no one to suffer. There never has been. There is no one to hold on and no one to let go. But the illusion of someone holding on can let go and discover what is true.
You can’t make sense of this. Because this words attempting to point to what is beyond concept.
There are plenty of teachers who suggest that there is nothing you can do about any of this. After all, they say, there is no one to do or not to do. And maybe that is true. Ultimately it’s all a mystery. But within the mystery it seems as though you can choose. And the choice you can make is to let go of what is not and recognize what is.
Although this makes no sense, I find that the simplest, most direct way to let go is to trick your attention into turning back to itself. See the previous post for the instructions for how to do this.
As usual, if you have comments or questions, I’d enjoy hearing from you.
Do you want to stop suffering? Well, I’ve got good news and bad news for you. Which do you want first?
Okay. The bad new is that I cannot stop your suffering. That’s not within my power to do.
The good news is that I can tell you how to stop suffering. I can give you precise directions. And as much as anyone can guarantee anything, I can guarantee that if you follow these precise directions then you will no longer suffer.
In fact, not only will you cease to suffer if you follow these directions. You will discover that you are the true source of joy. But this is not as you imagine it will be. In fact, it is exactly like right now. So the trouble isn’t with circumstances. The only trouble is with what you give attention to. And up to now you’ve given your attention to a very limited part of life rather than remaining with the source of all that is.
Are you confused yet? Good. Because disorientation may well be an essential ingredient to the end of suffering. Why? Because the path you’ve been walking has been leading you in the wrong direction. But you’re so addicted to that path that as long as you can still find the path, you keep walking it. So I’m mixing you up so that you can start to go in the right direction.
So what is your suffering? We all have different names for our suffering. I was OCD and anxious. I was paranoid. I was MCS. I was anorexic.
What names do you give to your suffering?
I’m going to let you in on a big secret that will completely change your life when you really hear this. Are you ready? Seriously. This is very, very important if you want to stop suffering.
Here’s the secret: the seeking for an answer is the suffering.
Here’s another secret that hardly anyone is telling you: it’s all seeking.
Whether you think you are trying to solve a problem like anxiety or pornography addiction or OCD or abusive anger…or if you think that your problem is that you long for God or Nirvana or Brahman or Cosmic Consciousness or whatever your particular flavor happens to be, then it’s all still seeking. Can you see that? In all forms of suffering the seeking is what is common. The objects of the seeking may be different, but the seeking itself is always the same.
Now, you may say that you’re suffering is different. You may believe that your suffering is because of what happened to you as a child. Or it’s because of malnutrition. Maybe you believe your suffering is because of your economic or social circumstances. Well, then keep on seeking. Because I don’t have the answers you’re looking for. In fact, I don’t have any answers. I’ve just got the end of the searching for answers to non-existent problems. And yeah, I know that I’ve just lost 99% of you. That’s alright. Most people aren’t ready to stop seeking for answers.
I remember what it was like to keep on seeking. I know the pain of that. I remember sitting in my apartment in Vermont praying for hours and hours on end that there might be an end to the suffering – an end to the seeking. I would go to sleep every night and pray that something magical would happen in the night as I slept that would change everything so that upon waking in the morning I would no longer suffer. I would no longer seek for the answers.
I had searched and searched and searched. I read Osho and Papaji and Eckhart Tolle. I attended satsang after satsang. I meditated for hours a day. I had to have the answer. I had to discover the truth. I was desperate. I was on fire with the desire for true and abiding peace.
And still, every morning I would wake up, and I would find that I was still me – still the seeking me, the obsessive me, the compulsive me, the anxious me, the fearful me, the separate me. And so it would all start all over again.
Things got worse and worse over the years. I was a mess. I was terrified that if I didn’t wash my hands and rub them together exactly nine times that God (even though I didn’t believe that I believed in a personal God…since that wasn’t very hip in satsang circles) would punish me by withholding spiritual enlightenment for even longer!
This continued for years. I was writhing in pain, unable to sleep at night, sick with Lyme disease in a drafty cabin in the woods of Maine. I was so mentally-constipated that I started flying into a rage at the drop of a hat. I was paranoid. I cannot even begin to do justice to the psychological anguish I experienced. And still I sought after what I imagined to be the truth. I would read Nirmala and Joan Tollifson. I would watch Tony Parsons videos on YouTube. I even bought a phone card to make overseas phone calls to Richard Sylvester in the U.K.
So I know a thing or two about suffering. I know that it sucks. And if I could, I would tap you on the forehead and wake you up. I would end your suffering. But I don’t know how to do that. If it worked that way, then surely we’d all be awake to the truth by now.
But although I cannot tap you on the forehead and wake you up, I can point you in the right direction. And, I can give you guidance. I have traversed the path, and so I can take your hand and show you the way. But whether or not you will hear me or believe me or understand me is not something I get to control. Whether you will actually take my hand and walk this path with me, I cannot know.
All I can do is make the offering.
I hope you receive it. I hope you do because I want to see you know yourself as you are. I want you to know yourself as true peace and freedom. I want this for you because I know how wonderful it is. And I know that it is truly available for each of us when we know where to look. It’s not difficult. It’s not a long process. It’s actually way simpler and easier than you have ever imagined. It’s actually instantaneous. And it can only happen right now.
I can show you how. I just cannot guarantee that you’ll do it or that you’ll understand it.
I understand why you are confused. And please admit that you are confused. Because this is an important first step. If you think you know then you are already full. And true freedom is emptiness. So just for this moment be willing to admit that you are confused.
The reason you’re confused is because you are still looking for the answer “out there.” You think that when you get more information then you’ll understand. But the more you seek, the more confused you get.
Consider for a moment: what is clarity? Isn’t it when things are…clear? Clarity is not a thing. It is the natural state that is evident when you no longer are cluttering your vision.
But don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t about stopping anything. I’m not inviting you to take on a new compulsion of trying to stop everything or get rid of everything. Because that won’t work. That just leads to more clutter. Because now instead of looking for the answer in all the clutter, you clutter your vision with all the attempts to clear your vision.
It’s so much simpler than that. It’s much closer than that.
When I was confused, part of my confusion was trying to figure out what to do about the confusion. I tried lots of things, including LSD and meditation and prayer and satsang. I did rebirthing and listened to Alan Watts. I practiced yoga. I did pranayama. I did qi gong. All that I did was an attempt to figure something out. I thought that I could solve the problem through seeking out the answers.
This seeking is the confusion. When you are confused you overlook the real answer. And the real answer is to stop the seeking. When you cease to look for an answer then you realize that the whole premise was false. There never was a problem. Or, rather, the whole problem was the seeking for an answer to a non-existent problem. It’s like a dog chasing his tail. Even if you get the answer, you’ll just end up biting yourself in the ass! It’s not the true answer because there is no true problem.
You find that hard to believe because you have a true problem. I know. I was there. I had real problems. Really. I was on the edge of death. Literally. I was really sick. Not just mental constipation, but physiological sickness. I was so sick I couldn’t stand for days at a time. And still I kept on seeking for answers.
But believe it or not, there are no true problems. There is only what is happening. And what is happening is the totality of what is. This is not a problem. It just seems like it because you’re seeking for an answer. Consider that for a moment: when you seek for an answer you are presupposing that there is a problem.
Now, am I suggesting that you shouldn’t get out of the way of a semi-truck about to mow you down? No. Of course not. Knowing that there are no problems doesn’t suddenly make you suicidal or brain-dead. Actually, in my experience, it’s quite the opposite. Suicidal impulses (I’m speaking from my own experience) are a product of seeking.
But hold on a second. Because I know that the danger here is that you’ll try to take on a new belief that there are no problems. That won’t work. That’s just more seeking. Now you’re trying on for size the new answer: “there are no problems.” But you’re still presupposing that there is a problem!
Are you ready for the secret for how to stop seeking? I’m going to tell you, and then I know what will happen; 99% of you will dismiss this. You’ll think that it is too simple. Or you’ll try it and decide that it doesn’t work because it doesn’t solve all your problems. But I promise you that this is it. If you want to stop seeking and stop suffering then this is the only way to do it of which I am aware. It is so simple that anyone can do it. It is so direct that it produces immediate results. And it will work every time. But it’s not glamorous. It’s not going to produce a spiritual fireworks display most of the time. It’s not going to get you out of debt overnight. It’s not going to make you drop 50 pounds in a week. It’s not going to give you what you think you want. But it will definitely give you what you truly want – true freedom. At least I believe that. Maybe I’m wrong. But the only way to know is to do it. So are you ready?
The secret is to turn your attention from what you think about what is happening and give your attention to what is happening. This is very, very simple. In fact, it’s so simple that it’s effortless. The effort is all in giving your attention to the thinking and the story about what it all means.
Now, I know that I heard this message many times for years before I finally “got it.” So I do understand that if I left you with just that then 99% of the 1% who actually are still reading at this point would fail at this. But don’t worry. I’m going to give you very clear instruction.
Again, much of the problem is that you’re confused. I know because I was confused too for a long time. I heard the message to be with what is directly instead of giving attention to the story, but somehow I never actually understood it. And until you have the experience of being with what is, without jumping to the abstract thought about what it is, then you’ll remain confused. The reason is that once you experience what I’m pointing to, then you will no longer have so many doubts. Because this experience is so direct and immediate and clear that you will know what I am talking about from here on out.
The confusion arises from the fact that you have lived for so long in a very narrow way. You’ve imagined that reality is only knowable through your thoughts. You even think about your emotions and the sensations in your body. Instead of simply being the direct experience of what is happening, you give it a name. You call it sadness or anger. You call it pain or pleasure. But in doing so, you miss out on what is more immediate than that.
What is more immediate than thought is the direct experience. So let me guide you through an exercise that will give you the direct experience.
I call this exercise the Big Chill. You can do this any time, but it tends to be most profound when you are experiencing a “problem.”
The first step is to notice that your attention is on thought. You can notice that your attention goes to the analysis of what this is, what it means, and what you need to do about it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you’ll get a better sense of this the more you stay with this.
The second step is to notice that in your body there is a physical sensation. If you’re experiencing a “problem” then the chances are that this physical sensation is something that you habitually avoid. You probably avoid the sensation by jumping right to the thoughts about it rather than experiencing it directly. So what you are going to do now is meet this sensation directly without going to thought for help in trying to solve the “problem.”
Attention is a funny thing. It likes to have something to focus on. I’m going to show you how to direct your attention to focus on awareness, which is another way of describing the totality of life. The way to do this is not how you would imagine, however. The reason is that awareness is not an object. So if you look for it, you will not find it. In order to have attention focus on awareness, you have to trick yourself to stop looking for an object. I’ll show you how to do this.
The next step is to begin to scan your body using your attention. Move your attention to the top of your head, and begin to scan down your body, part by part, until you get to the bottoms of your feet. At each part, simply notice what is happening. Don’t try to change it. Just notice. Be curious. Notice how you’ve never really done this before. Notice that you’ve usually jumped right to thinking about what is happening instead of actually noticing what is happening.
Continue to scan the body from head to toe over and over again. Each time, simply notice what is happening. Simply notice what changes. You’ll notice that what is happening is always different. Thought tells us otherwise. But thought isn’t very sensitive. Thought is rather blunt. We apply names to experience, and we miss out on what is actually happening. Because the truth is that every moment is new and different. What you have called pain or sorrow or frustration or anger or joy or freedom or anything else isn’t the same in the next instant. So stay with what is actually happening rather than giving it a name. Just experience it. Just notice how it changes. Be curious.
What you’ll likely notice is that as you do this, your attention will start to naturally become attracted to something that is even nearer than the sensation, even nearer than the experience. You cannot force this. But you can allow it. Stay with the process because this process starts to turn your attention in the opposite direction from that which it is accustomed to going. And when your attention gets turned in this way, then you can notice this thing that is not a thing. This is awareness. This is you as you truly are. You are formless. You cannot see yourself. But you can recognize yourself. And when you turn in this way, attention naturally becomes attracted to its source.
As I said, it’s not glamorous. I don’t promise you that you’ll find yourself bowing before the Guru’s feet. Nor do I suggest that your mind will unfold like a thousand-petalled lotus. You’re not particularly likely to meet Krishna or Jesus through this practice. But you can discover yourself.
This is unlikely to ever be popular. Because, let’s face it, most people are addicted to seeking. They’re not ready to stop. They’d rather pay $1000 for a mantra and the promises of special powers than take a moment to recognize what is always here already. That was me too. I didn’t believe it could be so simple. But it is. Really. Suffering is complicated. Freedom is simple.
Freedom is the simplest thing ever.
Freedom isn’t glamorous. As I write this I’m wearing the same pants I’ve worn for a few weeks. I’m typing next to my daughter who is taking a nap. I’m next to her because we live in a one-room casita. There are flies buzzing around. My partner and our son are out for the day. My partner is the one who normally picks up around the house, so right now the counter is stacked with dirty dishes and empty food containers.
It’s not glamorous. It’s free. It’s true freedom. It’s the freedom to finally be who you are. This is a real relief.
Freedom doesn’t give you anything. It takes away. It takes away all that is false. It takes away suffering.
So go ahead. Go read the next book. Get the next practice. Seek some more.
But when you’re done seeking, then you discover this.
So now you may have some questions. Post your questions in the comments section below or send me an email at email@example.com (I’m very approachable.) When I receive questions, I’ll add them here along with my responses.
Q: I’m not experiencing anything like what you talk about when you describe the Big Chill. Am I doing something wrong?
Probably. You need a certified Big Chill trainer to check your practice.
Seriously, though, whatever you are experiencing is exactly what you are experiencing. Just stay with that. Just notice what you are experiencing. Notice how thoughts arise. Notice that “I’m not experiencing anything like what you talk about” is another thought. You have a choice to either jump to the thought or to stay with the direct experience.
At first this practice can be odd because you may be accustomed to always jumping to thoughts. As such, when you stay with the direct experience you may initially think that what you are experiencing is “nothing.” But that’s just from the perspective of thought. Thought cannot know what is. Thought is just thought. It’s not good nor bad. It’s just limited because it is only thought and life is so much more. So from the perspective of thought what is happening may seem “blank” or “boring” or “difficult” or any number of other things. But just notice that those are all just names – which is to say, more thoughts.
In my experience, doing the body scans without trying to change anything (with a curious attitude) is the most direct way to trick your attention into turning toward its source. So my encouragement is that you stay with the process. As long as you are genuinely giving attention to noticing what is happening in the body (without trying to change it) then this ought to turn your attention toward its source. The obstacle may be that you are still giving attention to thoughts about what is happening instead of what is happening.
Q: How can I know the difference between what is happening and thoughts about what is happening?
Thoughts are part of what is happening. So are sensations. So are memories. So are sounds. It’s all what’s happening. So it’s not that you should ignore thoughts. The danger here is that sometimes misunderstand the instruction and then believe that they should try to ignore or deny or stop thoughts. They try to make thoughts bad. There’s nothing wrong with thoughts. Don’t do anything with thought. Let thoughts happen as they do. Just notice that they are happening.
Typically I find that the instruction to give attention to the sensations in the body without trying to change anything is the most effective. I suspect this is because sensations are closer to the source than are thoughts. (Of course this is utter nonsense since there is no such thing as distance from the perspective of totality. But somehow this instruction seems to be effective.) In any case, just become curious to see and experience all that is happening as it is rather than as you think it to be. Start to be curious about what a sensation feels like rather than what you think about it. Don’t even give names to how the sensation feels. Just feel it. And regarding thought, start to be curious about what the actual experience of the arising of a thought is rather than the thought about a thought.
If you’re giving labels to experiences then that’s a pretty clear indicator that you’re giving attention to thought instead of staying with the direct experience. This isn’t wrong. It’s not bad. You haven’t failed. That’s all just more thought. Instead, just stay with the process. Do the body scan and be curious.
Q: I notice that my body seems to relax as I do this process. Is that normal?
It’s pretty normal. It’s not the goal. But it is a by-product. And a rather pleasant one at that.
When I first discovered this practice I was in a very, very desperate point in my life. Mood swings is too mild of a term. I was suicidal and angry.
I started to notice that physical tension accompanied the emotional distress. During that time I played around with attempting to directly physically relax. It was very effective. But it was also extremely difficult to maintain because I was directly confronting the habit of responding to life with resistance and tension.
So it was years later that I finally discovered this better, gentler, and more effective approach. Rather than trying to relax, all you need to do is notice what is happening. There is a natural intelligence within the body, and typically when you give attention to what is actually happening (rather than what you think is happening) this give the intelligence a chance to produce a relaxed state.
Although being relaxed is enjoyable and the most appropriate response in most circumstances, the goal is not to be relaxed. Because if that was the goal then it would make freedom dependent on relaxation. And that is not the case. Freedom is primary. Freedom is not dependent on any circumstances. You are free whether you are fixated on thought or not. you are free whether you are tense or relaxed.
So physical relaxation is often a rather pleasant by-product of turning your attention to its source. It’s not a requirement. And I wouldn’t recommend giving much attention to it. Just enjoy it as what is right now!
Q: It sounds as though you searched for spiritual enlightenment rather intensely. Do you think that is necessary to discover the true freedom that you describe?
No. I don’t.
First of all, let’s be clear. I think the whole idea of spiritual enlightenment is crap. It’s just another thing to seek after. It’s just another carrot on a stick. It’s not reality.
Reality is the ever-present, unconditional freedom that knows no opposite. You already are this freedom.
So why don’t you know this already? Because you’re still seeking. My advice is that you stay with what is instead of jumping to the thoughts about what it means. Notice that right now there is what is happening. And notice that your attention is going to a very specific and narrow part of that – the thoughts about what it is and what it means.
Stay with what is, which includes the thoughts, but isn’t defined by the thoughts.
Perhaps the other part of your question has to do with understanding what it is that causes someone to be ready to actually look for themselves and stay with direct experience. And that is a mystery. That is why I say that I can give you the instruction that will point you to true freedom, but I cannot guarantee that you will hear it or heed it.
But if you’re waiting for someone to do it for you, then you’ll be waiting forever. We’ve all heard the exciting tales of the people who seek out the guru in the Himalayas who awakens to endless bliss when the guru touches her on the forehead. That’s just another story to keep you seeking. It just keeps you in suffering. The answer is to stop seeking. And the most effective way I know of to do that is to turn your attention to direct experience, which draws attention back to its source.
Q: How can I know when my attention is resting in the source?
You’ll know because you won’t be looking for answers any longer. You won’t have any problems.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that shit won’t still happen. If you live in California then you’ll still be at relatively high risk of experiencing earthquakes. If you live in Florida then you’ll still experience hurricanes. There will still be misunderstandings. Cancer still happens. Nuclear disasters still happen. Shit still happens.
Q: So what do you mean when you say that I won’t have any problems?
What I mean is that you won’t be seeking for answers to insoluble things. This is suffering. Suffering can be of two basic sorts:
The first sort of suffering is suffering that is a complete fabrication. I used to wash my hands countless times every day. (Okay, I probably did count…but that was more of the same problem!) It wasn’t because my hands were dirty. It was because I was afraid not to. So what was the real problem? There was no real problem. It was a complete fabrication. The suffering was real. It’s just that there wasn’t actually a problem.
The second sort of suffering is when you are presented with a situation in which you cannot do anything to change the situation, but you desperately try to change it. As an example, I have breasts. I’m a man with breasts. This used to be a problem for me. Now it’s not. Or, rather, it never was a problem. Now I see that clearly. And it’s much more enjoyable to see clearly.
Here’s my latest YouTube video.