Category Archives for "Uncategorized"
My friend and podcast co-host, Luis Campos, recently told me that he was diagnosed with something scary. He writes about it on the Completely Ordinary blog if you’re interested.
Luis has helped me to discover the importance of accepting the gift of the heart. He has taught me this not through knowing the answer and lecturing me about it.
He has taught me by being himself, being vulnerable, failing, not knowing.
He’s taught me by being a friend.
Luis and I have been exchanging emails since he told me about his diagnosis. And just a few moments ago one of our exchanges reminded me of a story that I then shared with him.
I want to share it with you too.
Another friend of mine – Thomas Seibold – went missing in late 2012.
I met Thomas first when I lived outdoors for a winter in 2009-2010. He was one of the other people living with me.
Thomas was a German man, then in his mid-to-late 20s, living in norther Wisconsin.
He was one of the gentlest, nicest, most open-hearted people I have met.
Thomas (pronounced like the English word “toe” and the Spanish word “mas”) loved being outdoors. He loved being connected to the world he loved.
He made his own clothing from hides. He hunted, trapped and gathered his own food, he paddled in remote regions for weeks at a time.
In 2012 he went to a remote area of Alaska on his own.
His intention was to explore for a few months until it got cold. Then he would return to Wisconsin.
When he didn’t return, his wife and friends became worried.
They initiated a search for him.
Nobody has ever found Thomas.
Nobody knows for sure what happened to him.
But the best guess based on the available evidence, is that he was killed by a bear while he went to get another part of a moose he had killed.
I was torn up by this news. I felt so angry. It seemed to unjust.
Why would Thomas be killed? Why somebody so honest and good?
I felt angry that he went to Alaska.
But then I realized something. He was living from his heart.
What I was wishing for, in wishing that he was still alive, was that he would have deadened down a bit, closed his heart, lied about who he was and what he needed. I wanted him to play it safe. I wanted him to be somebody else.
But who I loved was who he was. That open heart. That honesty.
Luis teaches me the same through his open-heartedness, his failings, his willingness to be whatever he is.
And life offers continual opportunity to say say to the heart.
For so long I thought I wanted security and enlightenment and power and bliss and to transcend.
Having gotten so many tastes of those things that I thought I wanted, I now realize that the real gift is the gift that is always here.
It is a heart broken open.
It is the imperfection of being what I am.
It is the willingness to say yes, including during shame and loss and fear.
It is the willingness to connect and make no effort to stop the flow of life, as scary as it can be at times.
And it is the willingness to let go and forgive in each moment when I fail completely.
Nobody has to do anything to earn this. It is not like that. It is available right now.
Thank you to all who have taught me and who teach me to recognize this gift.
I used to hate myself.
Maybe I still do. But I don’t really believe it much or perceive it as such.
When I say that I hated myself, I should clarify, because it’s a rather complex thing.
Here’s my best attempt to explain it.
I had an unquestioned, unconscious belief that myself was an object that limited and harmed the real me.
In other words, I had a sense that the real me was this thing closer in, and the thing that I believed to be good and right and true.
Myself was the thing just a little further out, and it contained all the unwanted stuff pinned on me. Like fear, anger, frustration, anxiety, worry, jealousy, etc.
I felt that the real me hated myself.
So much so that I actually recall instances in which I wished (in horror) that myself would get cancer and die a painful death. I thought and sometimes said, “I hate you, you evil motherfucker. I hope you die a miserable death. Go fuck yourself. I hate you, hate you, hate you. Stop torturing me.”
I sometimes screamed at myself.
I wanted to be only the real me. I wanted only to be good and pure and free of unwanted experience and conditioning.
Then, through the course of life and the misery of pitting the real me against myself for years – the exhaustion, the physical illness all of the fighting produced – I started to realize that I was doing this.
Unconsciously, perhaps, But I was doing it.
What was I doing? This gets difficult to say, exactly. But it had something to do with how I was placing my attention and how I was believing that I needed to maintain a contracted state to protect the real me.
When I began in investigate this, I started to see the falseness of it.
The division I imagined between the real me and myself turned out to be unfindable.
What I found, instead, is what seems to be indifference.
Initially, that indifference seemed unbearable.
For years I had thought that I needed bliss or joy or something a bit psychedelic.
I had imagined that the bliss/joy/psychedelia would protect me (the real me) from everything unwanted. I’d only experience wanted stuff.
Indifference didn’t meet my expectations.
Indifference didn’t protect anything.
Indifference didn’t care about objects.
Indifference didn’t even have knowledge of objects.
Separation doesn’t make any sense to indifference.
But through luck, I started to notice that indifference wasn’t the dull, lifeless, horrific thing I had imagined it would be.
What I am calling indifference could alternatively be called openness or unconditionality.
Or maybe love.
It’s not love of something. There’s no object involved.
But love seems like a correct word to describe the unconditionality and aliveness.
This has surprised me very much.
And it continues to surprise me.
I didn’t get to get rid of myself. I didn’t get to protect the real me.
I didn’t get rid of unwanted experience.
I don’t experience bliss or joy or psychedelia endlessly.
Sometimes I am fearful, angry, sad, anxious, worried, depressed, and so on.
I make lots of mistakes. I am sometimes mean and petty. I often recoil into a contracted state.
But by tuning into the indifference, I get to discover that I am that and that is me and the real me is myself and myself is the real me.
It’s so simple. So simple that I can’t understand it or own it or do anything with it.
All I get to do is tune it, let go, inquire, see, tell the truth.
Now and now and now.
It’s very humbling.
None of my fantasies came true.
I’ve heard people speak of “being yourself”.
I thought it was something to aspire to. I thought that someday, once I figured everything out and was perfect, then I’d get to be myself.
As if being myself was a reward for being good enough.
As if myself is some static object.
I first saw the falseness of this years ago. I thought at that time that I had “woken up” to my “true self” through this seeing.
Yet it’s such a seductive idea that I am amazed at how it continues to hypnotize me.
But that hypnosis – though it promises ease and painlessness – turns out to be a kind of suffering.
I started writing and blogging a few years ago with the intention of shining a light on that suffering, revealing it for what it is.
Despite the fact that I’ve done my best to proclaim my imperfection and utter lack of attainment of anything, I slowly built up in my own mind the idea that I had an image to protect. The image of the one who woke up through this seeing.
Which is nonsense. And suffering. And unnecessary.
What I want so much to share is that it is okay for us each to be ourselves…as we are right now.
Not that we have to become ourselves. Or maintain ourselves.
Or that ourselves need to be nice or good or smart or right or true or authentic or anything.
And not that we need to take pride in ourselves or defend ourselves as right.
Just that it is okay to actually love ourselves unconditionally.
But I guess the truth is, I don’t know that is true for you. I just know it is true for me right now.
I get to love myself unconditionally. And I get to love you unconditionally. I get to love unconditionally.
Which doesn’t mean I have to condone everything. It doesn’t mean I have to justify and defend anything.
I can be wrong. I can make mistakes. I can learn and do better.
But I also get to love unconditionally.
It also doesn’t mean I have to love unconditionally. Or that I have to act in a particular way. Or that I have to appear loving. Or that I have to acknowledge this unconditional love.
Because that’s the trap of building up an image of myself to protect that I was referring to earlier.
What I mean is simply that I get to love unconditionally. Right now. In this fragile moment of vulnerability.
And that’s the danger of being myself; it’s so fragile. It’s completely ungraspable. And inimitable.
I don’t get to be anything other than this.
Sometimes my opinion of this is good. Sometimes bad.
But this is what I get to be right now.
If I am willing to be vulnerable and love unconditionally, I receive the gift of my imperfection.
If I am unwilling, then I suffering until I am willing.
Then, a miracle. The danger of being myself is that miracle.
I woke up irritable.
My partner, Sarah, wasn’t feeling well.
I got up – irritably – to feed and otherwise be available for my children.
And I didn’t like any of it.
I didn’t like being irritable – the shoulders tense, the knotting in the stomach. (Things I “should know better than”.)
I didn’t like my behavior – the tone in my voice, the aggression in my demeanor and speech. (More things I “should know better than”.)
I just wanted it to go away. (Yet more that I “should know better than”.)
Because none of that is part of my self-concept.
My self-concept is nice, relaxed, at ease, friendly, kind, generous, selfless, happy.
Always because concepts are dead.
Life is alive.
Life isn’t always anything. It is dynamic. It is ungraspable.
So what should I do? Should I do a meditation? Should I breathe consciously?
How about this: nothing.
Like life (because it is life), the significance of “nothing” is dynamic. And I am ever-amazed at the ways in which nothing is possible.
It’s not a dead nothing – not a concept of nothing. Not like sitting in empty space with no light, no breeze, no movement, etc.
It’s a living nothing. It’s the complete ease of this as it is.
Which includes irritability and not liking irritability and not liking not liking irritability and so on to infinity.
Because, and I’m sticking my neck out here, I find no evidence whatsoever that any of this matters.
Meaning, why have I imagined that irritability is a problem?
If it’s not a problem – or at least if there’s no proof that it’s a problem – is there any obligation to do anything about it?
And even if I play along like it’s a problem and do something about it, is that a problem?
Nothing is so easy that it is mind-blowing. So easy that if difficulty occurs, even the difficulty is occurring with absolute ease.
Which is exactly what is happening.
The mind comes up with so many objections. But the objections happen with complete ease. Tension happens with complete ease. Because none of this is opposed.
Not even the opposition is opposed.
What if we get to be exactly as we are?
It’s no secret that I have a history of extreme obsessiveness
So it probably comes as no surprise when I tell you that I was serious about getting to the bottom of things.
Let me give you an example. I became obsessed with yoga. Not in the casual sense of obsessed. Not merely “I’m going to yoga class and then pranayama every single day” kind of obsessed.
Not merely “In addition to the yoga class and pranayama I’m also going to stare at a candle flame for long periods of time and recite mantras for hours every day” kind of obsessed.
Not merely “In addition to all that, I’m also going to stick a string through my nostril and pull the end through my mouth so I can clean back there and I’m going to swallow a cloth and pull it back up to clean my stomach” kind of obsessed.
I was consumed. I read everything I could get my hands on. I went to every “authentic” yoga- or Hindu-themed things I could find.
I went to an all-day event with an Indian yoga-enlightenment-spiritual master so “authentic” even his translator needed a translator.
And I had to bring a coconut. It was one of the rules.
I attended pujas.
The whole nine yards.
And, along with all of that, I became obsessed with eating a purely “sattvic” diet.
After all, I reasoned that I was trying to be as “sattvic” as possible in my actions, my thoughts, my intents, etc. So I didn’t want to screw it all up by eating, God-forbid, garlic or something terrible like that, which would throw off my spiritual energy.
If you’re not familiar with the idea, sattva refers to one of the three gunas in the yogic/Hindu/Vedantic system. The gunas are energies or attributes. Sattva is viewed as the energy of “purity”. Rajas is dynamic. Tamas is dull and violent.
In many schools of philosophy, people are encouraged to cultivate sattva.
Some yogic schools of thought take that to an extreme.
I took it still further.
I wanted to know what foods are entirely and always sattvic in their nature and what means of eating these foods is entirely and always sattvic.
I poured over lists I found in books and on the internet.
The lists didn’t always agree.
I meditated upon it. I read and re-read the lists. I read and re-read about those making the lists to determine their authority, their purity. I meditated upon it again.
Round and round and round I went.
I was determined to get to the bottom of it. I wanted the truth.
to discover what should have been obvious: there was nothing sattvic about my entire attitude and relationship with life/myself.
Talk about violence and dullness. Tamasic through and through.
The pursuit of truth seems so noble.
But it is a form of violence. In fact, I think it is the heart of violence.
Because it objectifies truth and the one who is searching for it.
It creates division where there is none.
It makes the end more important than the means.
It overlooks what is immediate and obvious and real.
It is ignorance in the most basic sense.
I’ve come to discover that truth is not an object. The division is a fiction borne of ignorance. The means are more important than the end. Because the end is a fiction and the means are now.
And if we want to say that there is truth, if we want to give a name to it, that is fine. But then “truth” is this right now.
Before it can be objectified. Before it can be ignored. Before the whole make-believe of truth out there.
Yet it’s ungraspable. So that whole paradigm of me searching for truth, acquiring truth, possessing truth turns out to be false.
My goodness, what an incredible, unthinkable, unbelievable, amazing, mysterious gift. Aliveness, truth, this. Already, indifferently here.
The ignorant pursuit of truth is all that seems to obscure truth.
And it cannot even do that. Because as soon as I stop, it’s clear that nothing ever obscured truth. Truth just looked like ignorance and suffering.
As I wrote in a recent post, to be willing to truly stop, to give up, to make no effort, to relax the conditioned self-protective mechanism against life happening, to release that fixation on thought and feeling and problem – that goes against the momentum of a lifetime. It goes against the identity I have mistaken myself to be.
And it is the most blessed thing that has ever happened in my life.
I don’t mean that it happened once in the past.
It happens now.
Just by looking honestly.
Just by admitting that I can’t figure it out.
I have failed. I can only fail. And that failing is a gift.
P.S. – This post was partially inspired by another blog post I published today on the website for the podcast I do with Luis Campos. You can read that post here if you’d like: http://completelyordinary.com/celebrity-dangerous-teachings-and-responsibility/
When I first heard of the idea that all of life doesn’t revolve around me – that the object/thought I had mistaken myself to be might not be findable – it simultaneously had two effects.
One effect was to begin an inquiry into whether ideas or thought are actually the final truth.
The other effect was to trigger the self-centered, possessive mechanism that wants to claim everything as its own.
And this second effect is one that I didn’t even begin to recognize as such until fairly recently.
There is a great irony – and one that was lost of me for a long time – in rooms full of people gathered in the self-centered pursuit of no self.
I attended such gatherings because I wanted to improve the object I mistook myself to be. I wanted a better me. A happier, more confident, better-defined self.
And I wanted to claim that self and hold it up and proclaim, “This better self has discovered that there is no self!”
Here’s the funny thing: the more I inquire, the more I “wake up”, the more I discover that there’s a great joy in throwing the central caution of self-centeredness to the wind.
My friend, John Veen, recently used the term “unreasonable” to describe this joy. And it really struck me when he did because that is how I experience it.
It is totally unreasonable. Reason/caution/self-centeredness declares that protecting my future self’s security is all important. That is all that is reasonable.
And from that perspective, to be willing to release this chronic fixation and the physical contraction/posture of that fixation is not only unreasonable. It is reckless. It is like stepping off the edge of a cliff.
But upon stepping off the edge in this totally unreasonable way, it seems abundantly clear that reason and self-centeredness are just this tiny speck in the totality of the openness of life.
Sure, we can cling to them, maintain this tense posture. But why bother?
There’s joy in finally admitting that my feelings, my opinions, my beliefs, and even my life aren’t worth fixating on in that way.
They aren’t bad or wrong either, of course. No more than a speck of dust is wrong.
But imagine clinging to a speck of dust as though everything hinged upon it. As though it was all-important.
And if anybody came near, you’d lash out in self-protective violence. “My speck of dust! Don’t come so close!”
The irony is, of course, even the speck of dust is harmed by this isolation.
Let it be free.
Another funny thing: much of my life I assumed that my wants, needs, preferences, and feelings were worth managing because they seemed to be fundamental to happiness.
Meaning: I thought I needed to feel good to be happy.
Turns out not to be true.
And that’s good news. Because I could never figure out perfectly what feeling good was or what I really wanted.
I don’t think any of this is a moral issue. So please don’t mistake it for that. I’m not saying that we should become selfless. And I’m not saying we must do anything.
I’m just suggesting that an honest inquiry may be revealing and surprising. It sure is surprising to me.
I wouldn’t have guessed that happiness could be apparently uncaused and independent of how I feel or my opinion of myself.
Today I had a really nice Skype conversation with somebody, and it reminded me of the importance of “the basics”.
What do I mean by “the basics”?
I mean the recognition of the impermanent, ungraspable aliveness of this moment.
It is to recognize that the problem that seems to demand that we solve it is for a future self who will never arrive.
It is to recognize that the problem is a fiction.
This is not to negate the validity of the problems in their own domain – in time and space and for people who can and must do things.
But it is to recognize that simultaneously, there exists the domain – what my friend, John Veen, calls the vertical context.
And this domain is timeless and knows nothing of problems or solutions. It is a nondual domain. It is indivisible.
This domain is instantly obvious if I relax the chronic fixation on story.
Give it a whirl right now.
Just for a moment, relax the attention on thoughts.
Just for a moment, don’t try to solve anything.
Just for a moment, let all thoughts slip and slide and do whatever they do without following them.
And maybe you find that you naturally inhabit sensation. Direct. Raw. Unknowable. Indivisible.
This is the basics.
Notice how this aliveness doesn’t actually know anything of division. It cannot actually know of problems.
There’s a tension, a focus, a fixation that is required to do that. That fixation narrows this open awareness, like squinting does to vision. It generates a kind of illusion of division – this and that, here and there, now and then. me and you.
But if I just let go for a moment, where are the boundaries? Where is the division? No such thing is found.
Again, this doesn’t negate the domain of mind, of duality. It just reveals something of the nature of that “other” domain. Like waking from a dream doesn’t negate the dream. It just reveals something of the nature of that dream domain.
What it reveals, I cannot say. Because what it reveals is too immediate and ungraspable.
But it is obvious. Just go back to basics, and it’s obvious – obvious that it is always obvious.
Today I want to write about something uncomfortable for me.
It’s uncomfortable because I am asking questions in what I am about to write – not trying to answer them. So there is a lot of room for misunderstanding here.
But one thing I have discovered for myself is this: life is risky. There is no guarantee of safety. And the fullness of life seems to be found in the willingness to be exposed and wrong.
So here goes.
I’ve been contemplating something lately. And that is dangerous. Because when I contemplate things, I often get plunged into them directly, experientially, without any protection.
This was no exception.
What I’ve been contemplating is this: is there a kind of movement, of activity, that is not about right and wrong, good and bad?
I’ve been contemplating this very much since the incident that inspired my recent book, Wake Up Dream On.
If you haven’t yet read it, here’s a very, very short summary: I became suddenly extremely sick. I believed it likely that I would die momentarily. I survived. I mean, the animal survived. It is still animated. The idea of myself didn’t survive because it never was.
But I digress.
Point being, out of that came a new emphasis. Like a kind of dawning of something that I was faintly aware of, but now it is brighter.
And that is what I term “outer freedom” in the book.
This “outer freedom” is not separate from “inner freedom”. It is the same. But it is an aspect as both sides of a coin are aspects of the same coin.
And the realization is that “inner freedom” without “outer freedom” is a lie that eventually reveals a kind of bondage to an idea rather than the fullness of the vulnerability of being.
So my contemplation has been what is the nature of “outer freedom”. And we could call “outer freedom” by other names. We could call it spontaneous, nondual activity. We could call it, dare I say, happiness. Not the happiness of acquisition and protection. Rather, the happiness of – and here I’m going to say something really vulnerable and dangerous – the happiness of being, the happiness of open heartedness.
What is the nature of this kind of activity?
I don’t have the answer to that question. Not as something I can possess or formulate. But I do believe that I can now hint at it, talk around it, and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse.
As you may know – since I sent out an email to almost everybody on my email lists yesterday about this – yesterday I found a dog lying in the median of Interstate 25. Cars were zipping by at 80 miles per hour, and he was sitting there calmly, regally, as though nothing was happening.
I stopped, got out of my car, and crossed into the median to find out what was going on.
Long story, short, his leg was broken and he seemed to be asking for help. I managed – through the assistance of somebody I waved down – to get him in my car and drive him to the nearest animal hospital with emergency care (since it was a Sunday).
The surgery to help his leg heal is $2000 – something I don’t feel that my family can spare right now. So I set up a fundraiser online and sent an email.
Within 12 hours, people have contributed over $2800. Incredible. Thank you. Thank you.
I’ve paid for the surgery, and the vet will do it later on today.
Did I do a good deed?
I don’t know. I can’t know.
But I did do what my heart spoke.
Not what my mind said to do.
Because my mind said, “This is a mess. You can’t take this dog. Nobody wants this dog. This dog has almost certainly been abandoned here to die. You can’t afford to help this dog. It’s complicated. And you’re supposed to be in Colorado in an hour. You can’t do this. Just turn away. Just leave him. We all die. This may just be his time. You can’t save everybody.”
All true, perhaps. Or part true.
A good deed? Maybe not. How can I know? I don’t have enough information to know that. Maybe for him to survive, billions of beings have to die. The metal for the pin that will go in his leg is at the cost of environmental harm (mining). The drugs he is being given cause untold harm in their production process and disposal.
It’s all too complicated. I can’t know what is right. I can’t know what is good.
But right and good are in time. They are in thought.
Does that make them bad and wrong? I doubt it.
But they are insoluble (by me) because I don’t exist in time and thought. And I cannot possess enough time and thought to figure it all out.
What is clear, however, is the heart. It is timeless and thoughtless. It is yes. It is now.
But wait! Before I latch on to a new thought: “Thought and time are bad and wrong. Mind is bad. Only heart is good.” Let me pause.
That’s too rigid. The heart doesn’t exclude mind, thought, and time. It says yes.
See? I told you I wouldn’t have answers. I told you this would be questions.
And it opens me up. If you are willing, maybe it opens you up to what is happening. The fullness and murkiness of it.
Still, I explore this. Because I am curious. And because it seems so real in its impermanence. There is nothing to grasp. Grasp as I might, I am left empty handed and open hearted.
This play continues. And more and more it seems like a play. Not just play. But a play. The the thoughts and time aren’t bad. They are the play. Somehow they seem to open something up to a greater experience of itself – the fullness and richness of itself. The sadness, the anger, the fear all part of the happiness of the heart.
And here is something that is amazing to me – something that I cannot really put into words, but again, my heart is pouring forth, this uncontrollable deluge of ‘yes’ that seems to be related to this: through connection, through communication, through the willingness to be vulnerable and say yes, somehow not just me, but 78+ people came together through the heart.
I don’t know what that means. I don’t know, but it has had a major impact on me. And it causes me to wonder what is possible.
The world of mind – which we seem to see a lot of in the news and on social media and at work – creates a timebound spell of destiny and doom and hope and gloom.
But there seems to be something we all-too-often overlook. The possibility of tuning into the heart, which is now, which is yes. And this is connection and vulnerability and intimacy and tears and outpouring of unknowing.
Thank you. Thank you for everything.
Can you name just one thing that you have completely mastered?
And every master of anything – guitar, woodworking, mathematics, etc. – I’ve ever met or heard speak about their craft has said that the more they learn, the more they realize how much they don’t know.
Those who have “mastered” a craft are merely practiced enough to recognize how insignificant their “mastery” is.
So why did I believe that I could master life?
If I’ve gained any wisdom, it is only to the degree that I have discovered what I don’t know.
In other words, in my experience wisdom is the name given to the natural, open state of not-knowing and not clinging to any answers or any insistence that one needs to or could know.
Yet this conditioned impulse to know, to understand, to name, to define, to solve often continues.
And it can take the form of “Now I know that I don’t know”.
It’s a kind of clinging to the promise of security. As if knowing that I don’t know offers me protection from life.
But here’s a radical notion: we don’t need protection from life. Not even from the most frightening aspects of life.
Because we are life.
This is life.
Not that recognizing this offers protection, mind you. Because it doesn’t.
But there is an opportunity to let go and enjoy the terrifying ride in all it’s mysterious glory.
Don’t think that is protection either.
No protection. And no protection needed. We’re being destroyed before we even existed.
I started to notice something really amazing a few years back.
Since then, I’ve continued to pay attention. I guess you could say that I’ve been conducting a long-term experiment.
It’s been so useful that I’d like to share it with you so that you too can experiment.
The convention when sharing such a thing is to first explain the benefit to you should you choose to do the experiment.
And this gets a little tricky because honestly, the benefit is not something most people would perceive as very beneficial because it involves a lot of discomfort.
Mostly, we are convinced that we don’t want discomfort. And we will go to great (and very uncomfortable) lengths in an attempt to avoid discomfort.
So let me say this again: this experiment involves a lot of discomfort.
But here’s the thing: all that discomfort was the driver of every behavior up until taking up this experiment. Every time there was discomfort, I predictably took evasive action.
I said a wanted freedom, but I didn’t see the irony of the fact that I was actually attempting to further enslave myself by avoiding a large swath of experience.
Do you see what I mean? Isn’t it odd that I said I wanted freedom, but I was trying to blot out maybe 90 percent of what is? Maybe 100 percent, to tell the truth.
Okay. So now on to the experiment.
I am not sure I can fully convey the experiment in a single post. So I’ll not endeavor to do so. But this will be a start.
What I started to see was two very significant points, though I never formulated it as such until just now.
First, there was the insight that my suffering involved avoidance/rejection/resistance.
In other words, suffering wasn’t something that was done to me. Suffering was something I was doing.
This is a very important point.
I started to notice that I was conditioned to resist my experience whenever certain feeling states occurred.
I mistakenly believed that the feeling states were a problem. And for years I had been at war with the feeling states, thinking that would solve the problem.
But once I saw that the feeling states weren’t the problem – that it was my conditioned response/behavior that produced the suffering – I couldn’t go back to fighting with my experience in the same way. I had seen too much.
The second point is this: that conditioned behavior that produced suffering was unconscious. However, once it became conscious, it unraveled.
When I say that it unraveled, I don’t mean that the behavior instantly stopped. Much of the behavior has not stopped even now.
But something changed, and the momentum of the vicious cycle of suffering had been undone.
The experiment goes something like this: whenever I notice that I am suffering, I simply look and pay attention to what is actually happening.
This is not something I do in thought. This is direct.
I simply pay attention to what is actually happening.
Sensations in the body. Conditioned contraction. Rejection. Resistance.
I just pay attention.
And in this seeing, something is released. In that, it becomes clear that there never was a problem. There never was suffering. There never was anything happening.
This is why I can say in the same breath that I no longer suffer and simultaneously whenever I suffer I inquire.
Let me give you a specific and mundane example from this evening.
I was making dinner. I was hungry.
My daughter began telling me what she wanted me to do for her. “Get me water”, “I want an egg now”, “Give me bacon”.
Each time she made a request I was irritated.
She wasn’t asking in the “right” way. She wasn’t playing the game according to my rules. She wasn’t attempting to be pleasing to me.
My conditioned response was resistance.
But what was actually happening?
Nothing. Nothing at all.
Nothing graspable, at least.
My best attempts to grasp and give words to it can only extend so far as to say sounds and sensations were happening.
But even that is too much. That is stretching the truth.
Because the truth is that I cannot grasp or objectify what was or is happening.
To be willing to really inquire in this way without an agenda, without looking for the answer that will satisfy me or give me the results I think I want, is supremely uncomfortable.
And it is supremely delightful.