First, some context for today’s post.
I recently received an email from somebody in which he wrote to me about an insight he had regarding why he suffers. Although such insights may be interesting, maybe even true, giving attention to them as though they offered salvation is a mistake.
The search for salvation is the only proof that salvation is needed. Give up searching for a moment.
Next, and coincidentally, I received an email from my friend John Veen in which he shared what I think is a very important observation. That observation is that inner awareness and outer awareness are simultaneous. And, in fact, I am convinced, the same.
As I write this, one of the pieces that John shared with me – “Metaphor stew” – is still up for reading on his site. If it is still there when you read this, I recommend it to you.
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Thirdly, I received another email from somebody else I have occasional correspondence with, and the topic of it is so coincidentally aligned that I was inspired to write this post.
In that email he observes that despite having discovered the impermanence and emptiness of form six years ago – and despite having experienced a lightness coincidental with that discovery – there remains misery and the sense that the misery is a problem.
The sense is that the misery is a problem is based on an assumption. That assumption is a type of clinging to certainty, to identity.
And ironically, it is also why misery is miserable.
The misery of misery is the clinging, not the misery itself.
Once this is seen, just don’t bother with the “inward” mess any longer.
Of course, you will still bother. You cannot help it. But when you see what is happening, just leap.
What do I mean by “leap”?
I’ve probably related this here on my blog before, but it is worth recounting. When I was a child I used to go to the pool with my dad. The pool had a shallow end and a deep end. At the deep end was a diving board.
The diving board captivated me. I wanted to jump off it into the water.
I climbed the ladder to the board. I walked out to the edge. I peered over. And I froze.
The fear was overwhelming. Though I logically knew that jumping wasn’t likely to kill me – I had seen people jumping off it for months without anyone getting so much as a scratch – that logic didn’t help me.
I eventually climbed back down the ladder.
But I was still drawn to it. So I would climb and walk to the edge again and again. I wanted to jump, but I couldn’t get past the paralysis of the fear.
Eventually, I saw what was going on. I recognized that repeating the same practice over and over was not going to work. I wasn’t getting closer. I wasn’t making progress. I was just repeating the same thing over and over.
Then I leaped.
And, hey presto, I survived.
From then on, the fear remained. Jumping off a diving board into a pool is scary.
But I had the experience. I knew it. It wasn’t logic. It wasn’t theoretical. It wasn’t vicarious.
It was the real experience.
Now I can jump any time I wish.
This is exactly the same when it comes to spiritual pursuits.
There is some sense of bondage that drives us to seek for freedom.
We don’t know what that freedom is because we only know it theoretically as the theoretical remedy to the bondage that we perceive ourselves to suffer from.
Eventually, we find ourselves at the precipice consciously. Before that moment, we’ve been at the precipice, but unconsciously.
In that moment we recognize that we are on the precipice, and we see that freedom is already the case, but we need to leap to experience it consciously, to know it and embody it.
The only problem is that the fear of leaping is overwhelming. So we usually turn to thought. We analyze. We use logic. We convince ourselves that we are making progress, working on it, etc.
But what is needed is to leap, to have the experience.
So leap. Just leap.
The leap is reckless. It flies in the face of all our conservatism. It is wild and illogical. The mind says to stop and think this through, to be sure.
The leap is to disregard all the “inward” and instead leap into the outward. Ignore all the known for a moment. Release yourself entirely and irrevocably into the outward.
No parachute. No cord. No safety net.
Don’t misunderstand me, however. I am not saying to live your life in a reckless fashion, to quit your job, leave your family, default on your mortgage. That’s not the leap I’m talking about.
The leap is from chronic inward focus, trying always to solve the problem of me and my life, to a total release into the outward.
Like jumping off the diving board, this leap is not sustained forever. It is momentary. It is a flash. Like a bolt of lightning, it slices through the dark and illuminates everything for just a split second.
But though it is not sustained, it leaves its impression. Like that flash of lightning imprints an image on the brain of the one who sees it.
Once seen, once experienced, it cannot be undone.
Like leaping off the diving board gives the confidence to do the illogical, reckless release into the outward again and again, so too does the leap I am describing.
This leap means to let go of all the thoughts, the obsessions, the clinging, the clenching, the support, the identity, the reliable, the solid. Just for a moment. That is all that is needed.
This does not solve the problem. All the misery remains.
But it does make clear that the misery of the misery is a function of the clinging. That clinging is the chronic inward focus. That clinging is the attempt to solve the problem of me and my life.
Again, this will not get rid of misery, unpleasantness, fear, etc. But once this is experienced, it is accessible. And each leap reveals the false as false.
Don’t try to solve false problems.
Misery is a false problem.
Me is a false problem.
My life is a false problem.
All my faults and shame is a false problem.
The absence of a sustained state of bliss or a sustained state of leaping is a false problem.
Just leap. See what’s what.
Before I wrap this up, I’d like to share with you a specific example from my life of what I am talking about here.
I used to be anorexic. I write that I used to be. That is not because some of the same obsessive programming isn’t still operating. It is only because I ceased to give chronic attention to it.
Imagine this for a moment. Imagine what it would be like to perceive food and your bodily sensations as a threat – a major problem to be solved. Imagine that this obsession occupies all your waking hours. Imagine that while other people are socializing around you, even enjoying life, you are giving all your attention to what you have eaten or what you might eat and how that makes you feel.
That is what my life was like for a long time.
I had long thought that the solution to that problem was something I could figure out and do. But the more I tried, the more chronic the obsession became. I was not closer to a solution. I was producing the problem.
The solution has not been anything I have figured out or done. The solution has not been to get rid of the fear and anxiety. The solution has been to leap.
Leaping didn’t instantly change my behavior. And it most certainly did not change or get rid of the fears and obsessive tendencies.
Leaping, in this case, has greatly expanded my vision. It revealed how myopic I had been.
Myopia is not wrong. But it is myopic. And if you have the misfortune to be fixated on something rigid and painful, myopia is terribly unpleasant.
The thing about such myopia is that one doesn’t know that one is myopic. It can genuinely seem that one’s limited view is the totality. It can seem that the whole of life is utter misery in the most nightmarish form. This is one reason people kill themselves.
Leaping reveals that the myopia is myopia. It is like that lightning flash that illuminates for a moment the whole of life. It doesn’t change habits or tendencies. But it reveals the context. And context matters. It matters perhaps more than anything else.
You may not be anorexic. But you are myopic. We all are.
Leaping will not be likely to solve your myopia. But it will certainly reveal the infinite context of your myopia. And that changes everything without changing anything.