last month

I feel bad…Is that true?

I sometimes I think that I feel bad.

By “bad” I mean any experience I think I don’t like. There are many variations on this theme. I might call one anxiety and another anger. Still another I might call physical pain. And another I might call disrespected. Impotence is another possibility. There are dozens or hundreds of variations.

All these different types of feeling bad have a shared underlying nature. Which is that they are all experiences that I think I don’t like.

What I learned from society is that when I think I feel bad, I should try to figure out how to feel better.

For most of my life I followed that conditioning blindly, unquestioningly.

I did that until it hurt so badly that I couldn’t go on doing that.

It hurt really badly. So badly that I stopped merely thinking that I felt bad. Instead, I started thinking that I felt so bad that I wanted out at any cost, even if that meant killing myself.

I hurt physically, emotionally, and psychically. I was in torment. Hell.

And I didn’t see any way out. I had TRIED to get out. I had tried really hard.

I thought of myself as an intelligent person. I had been told by society that I was intelligent. I was rewarded by society for being intelligent. I was told that I was successful.

But I couldn’t solve the most basic problem in my life. Which was that I was in torment. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of hell. In fact, the more I tried, the slipperier the walls of hell became and the more I slid into greater depths of torment.

I tried lots of what I thought were different approaches to curing myself. But I failed. And worse than failed, I had made things worse.

I thought that if I could not use my intelligence to succeed in escaping hell, I stood no chance. And so I genuinely considered killing myself. Not just once, but daily for years did I consider killing myself.

By grace a new thought occurred to me. Since I was fixated on thoughts, this was the way that something new had to enter my consciousness.

This new thought went something like this. “Before you kill yourself, don’t you think you ought to be sure that you’re right in your assessment?”

In other words, killing myself would have been drastic. And I hadn’t truly exhausted all possibilities. I had only exhausted the possibilities within the extremely limited world of me and my supposed intelligence.

That so-called intelligence is not real intelligence, by the way. All it really is, is a collection of ideas and interpretations of past experiences. It has no true foundation. It is like a castle in the air. It could appear impressive, but it is not rooted in reality. And therefore no matter how impressive it may appear, it is almost certain to be based upon wrong assumptions.

My so-called intelligence was based upon a lot of wrong assumptions. And one such assumption was that I knew the meaning of what I felt or experienced.

By grace I saw this. I caught a glimpse.

The glimpse was and is humbling. And humiliating. In my experience, I don’t get to enjoy the benefits of humility unless I am also willing to be humiliated all the way through to complete transparency.

The glimpse did and does reveal that I don’t know. I only assume.

This insight did not deliver me to an eternal free ride on the Freedom Express. What this insight did was show me the way to purchase a ticket to the Freedom Express.

The purchase method and the purchase price is everything. It costs everything that I think I know. Everything I think I am.

When I am willing to surrender everything, I wake up here now to true freedom. This freedom is unconditional. But to discover it here now I must give up my conditions.

If and when I think that I am feeling bad, I am presented with a double-edged sword. I can use it to leap into hell. Or I can use it to reflect the truth.

The truth is I don’t know. I don’t know what this feeling is or what it means.

All my ideas are based on past experiences. If I am dissatisfied with the results of the past, I will do well to admit that and not repeat the same idiocy in hopes of something new.

If I want something new, I have to admit that I don’t know the answer. I don’t even understand the problem. I don’t even know what this experience is or what it means.

When I open to newness that much – so much that I truly surrender my efforts to win even to the point of admitting that I don’t even know where to begin – then something truly new can enter.

This is in the opposite direction of what my conditioning says. It is in the opposite direction of what society says.

But I have to be honest. Honesty is that my conditioning has failed to produce satisfying results. And honesty is that society is a mess and that society rewards idiots, not true wisdom. So I am a fool to take direction from society.

Honesty is that I don’t know and nobody “out there” knows. The only truly honest thing and truly sincere thing I can do is nothing.

Instead of trying to fix my supposed problem (feeling bad), I choose to do nothing.

Doing nothing doesn’t mean zoning out. Doing nothing is very much alive. It is a fully present experience. It means I watch every impulse and I don’t energize it.

My habits, my conditioning, would have me doing a million different things, flailing about in desperate attempts to fix something – to feel better.

So doing nothing means I watch the impulses, watch the conditioned reactions, and rest instead of energizing them.

Sometimes it seems I’m being squeezed or crushed. I think, “This is very uncomfortable!”

But that is just more of the conditioned reactivity. So I watch and rest.

I just keep surrendering every impulse, every thought, every reaction. No matter what.

Because I don’t know the unknown. But I do know that every attempt to fix the problems has resulted in suffering. So I don’t know anything except that everything I think I know is the building material for hell.

And I have had enough of suffering. I don’t want hell anymore. So I refuse to construct it.

In the present seeing of the conditioning as it arises, I rest in freedom.

This freedom is so great, so inclusive, that everything is welcomed. Everything is included. Everything is seen. And everything is seen *through*.

And it starts always now with admitting the truth. When I think anything, when I believe anything, when I cause myself pain of any kind. Right now. Simply seeing what is happening as it is happening.

And recognizing that I don’t know what this is. I don’t know what this means.

I *still* have thoughts that simply seeing is inadequate. I still have thoughts that I need to jump in and fix things.

For me, freedom is not about getting rid of those thoughts. Neither is it about getting rid of the feelings that I think I don’t like.

Because that freedom is conditional. That is freedom that is always in the future or in the past. That is not a freedom I can actually taste now.

The only freedom I can taste now is unconditional freedom. If I place conditions on it, it vanishes.

Any label or judgment about this present experience is a condition. If I say “this is good” or “this is bad”, I am making this conditional.

Let me make that clearer. If I say “this is good”, I am generating anxiety. Because I know that this so-called goodness wasn’t always the case. This so-called goodness is temporary. So I know that it will go. And I experience anxiety about when it will go and what it will be like when the so-called goodness goes.

If I say “this is bad”, I am struggling to change this.

Either way, I am not at rest. I am suffering either way because I am not tasting present freedom. Instead, I am calculating. (Thank you to my friend, John Veen, for sharing something with me recently with that word “calculating” in it, because that is the right word.)

I can only taste freedom here now. And I can only be present here now when I drop the conditions, which means dropping the foolish arrogance that I know.

The miracle that I experience every time I choose to surrender is the miracle of present unconditional freedom.

This miracle is complete here now. It is completely fulfilled here now. There is nothing to attain in the future. No conditions need to be met.

And in this surrender I discover clarity. Simple clarity. Obvious clarity. So simple that it is shocking that I overlooked it.

The simple clarity is this: This present unconditional freedom is what I was always looking for. But I overlooked it because I was injecting a false separation. I was generating a falsely separate sense of self whose job it was to judge and critique every experience. I wrongly had believed that it was my duty to judge rightly what is good and to pursue and attain that.

And in so doing, I habitually practiced misery. Therefore I was experiencing misery…because I was doing misery.

It is that simple. I was miserable because I was practicing misery.

And the radically simple discovery here now is that instantly when I cease to practice misery (i.e. judging every experience as good or bad from the false position of separation), unconditional freedom is revealed.

I don’t have to earn it or attain it. I don’t even get to have it.

But when I cease to practice misery, I am instantly welcomed home to unconditional freedom. All falseness is made transparent.

My only job in this is to observe and rest.

Whatever happens, I observe and rest.

Even when thoughts that I am being harmed arise, I observe and rest. Even when so-called bad feelings arise, I observe and rest.

And I observe and rest not because I am virtuous. Rather, I observe and rest because I cannot tolerate suffering.

As I have said, I sometimes perceive this observing/resting/unconditional freedom experience as crushing, squeezing.

These moments are the true test. After all, it is easy to do nothing when my conditioning says, “This is great! You’re doing well! You’re feeling good! You’re successful!”

But when my conditioning says, “You’re dying! You’re in danger! It’s not okay! You’ve got to do something!,” that is when I must be deeply truthful.

I observe and rest.

I don’t have a rule that says I cannot act. That would be restraint and only more suffering. So observing and resting does not preclude action.

But I observe and rest and tell the truth.

Telling the truth means acknowledging that my past efforts have only resulted in hell. I means acknowledging that I still don’t know anything for sure. It means acknowledging that I am not going to succeed in my efforts to gain perfect security, and if I cannot succeed in that I am only practicing anxiety and unhappiness. Therefore anything I can do *with attachment to outcome* will only produce present anxiety and unhappiness.

Seeing this and doing nothing, I discover unconditional freedom here now.

Joey Lott

Joey Lott is the author of numerous books, including The Best Thing That Never Happened and The Little Book of Big Healing. He lives in southern Vermont with his wife and children.

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