During the winter of 2008-2009, I was waiting. Desperately waiting.
I sat in my unfurnished apartment in southern Vermont – literally sat on the bare wooden floorboards – waiting for enlightenment to strike me.
I read Tony Parsons books and Bob Adamson books and Nisargadatta transcripts.
And I tried to make my mind blank. I tried so conjure what I imagined I had understood all these people to be talking about.
I was desperate because I didn’t feel that I could stand the suffocating misery of me and my life any longer.
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I was between waiting for enlightenment and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Truth is, I had been waiting in much the same way for most of my life. With slightly less desperation, but the same basic waiting.
Waiting for whatever I imagined was going to save me from right now and from the future – from all the unwanted thoughts and sensations and so forth.
From all the fear and discomfort.
Are you waiting?
As an experiment, do this: notice how you wait. And when I say “notice”, I mean simply observe, feel into, inhabit the experience directly. You don’t need to think about it. Just inhabit the experience.
Notice that waiting requires effort. It requires strain. It is a posture that you have to work to maintain.
Now, see what happens if you simply stop waiting for a moment.
Just be really curious to find out what it is like right now if you stop waiting for a moment.
If you’re not waiting…if you’re not straining…what is happening?
Don’t look to thought for the answer, by the way. That would require more waiting, more straining.
To find out, you have to release the attempt to get an answer.
The next thought may say, “But this isn’t the answer! This is blankness! This is boredom! This is uncomfortable! This is stupid! This is a waste of time!”
And if you grasp at that thought, you’ll likely grasp at the next. And the next.
And then you’re just straining again. Waiting.
Without straining to grasp the next thought. Without trying to get an answer. Without attempting to secure your future safety or okayness or enlightenment…
…what is the problem?
There’s no waiting. No problem. Just open, unbounded aliveness.
Thought will say “So what? What does that do for me? It doesn’t help me.”
Are you sure you need help? Just a half second ago wasn’t it obvious that there was no problem?
Only when you grasp at the next thought is there an apparent problem.
Only then are you waiting. Waiting for life. Waiting for okayness. Waiting for permission to be fully. Waiting to know the answers. Waiting for relief.
It’s a joke, by the way. And here’s the punchline: you’re waiting, but in truth, there is no outcome other than the inevitable cessation of waiting. That’s it. You can wait and wait and wait. But you don’t get a greater prize because you waited longer.
The prize is already the case. The prize is the ungraspable.
So don’t grasp. Seriously. Don’t grasp. To grasp is to strain. To grasp is to wait.
Don’t grasp. Not the next thought. Not anything.
Let life be.
And don’t grasp at non-grasping. Don’t wait. If you grasp at non-grasping – if you create some imaginary future perfected state of non-grasping – you are grasping, and you are straining. You are waiting.
The next thought…let it be.
Chances are, you’re grasping again at thought – trying to figure out if you’ve understood this correctly, if you’ve arrived at the desired destination.
That’s waiting. Waiting for life. Mistakenly believing that you cannot fully be, fully breathe, fully inhabit this experience until some future conditions are met.
But when we do that, we just wait. Life is this right now. It’s fully here. We don’t have to make any effort for it.
Ironically, the effort we make – the striving to attain something, fix something, figure something out, hide from, or whatever else – the effort we intend to bring us closer to life, to give us life, to help us be more alive – that effort only serves to produce this state of waiting. Purgatory.
There something that I’ve learned, though. And I don’t proclaim to live in a perfect state of remembrance of this. But I’ve learned it and experienced it over and over and over, and as far as I know anything to be true, I can give you my word that this is true.
You cannot force yourself to be effortless. Though that is almost always the first thought that comes to mind – the impulse to do something to fix the perceived problem. But you can become aware of how you make effort. And that awareness instantly reveals that you are not defined by that.
That is a discovery of freedom. A discovery, not a creation of. The freedom is already here. We only discover it to be already the case.
Don’t put off the discovery. And don’t dismiss the discovery too quickly.
Just pause for a second.
Pause all the effort.
Don’t make even the effort to grasp at the next thought. The thought that tells you what the problem is. What the solution is. What you are. Where you are. Who you are. Why you are. What you need to do. Why this isn’t enough.
Don’t make that effort. Just for a second.
Don’t move to grasp at anything.
The point is not that grasping needs to be the new problem – one that you need to solve by forceably not grasping.
The point is just that if you are still for a moment…and particularly if you observe how you grasp so that you can voluntarily cease grasping for a few more moments…you see clearly that all that you’d mistaken yourself to be – all the stories, the problems, etc. – is stuff happening in the space/aliveness that you are.
Put another way, I’m talking about the direct, felt, realization that you are not dependent upon thoughts, stories, problems, sensations, or any of the things that you had previously mistaken yourself to be defined by.
This is not a negation of those things. It is not a denial. It is not to say they are not real or that they do not exist. It is not to say that you should ignore them. It is not a commentary on them.
It is more like zooming out infinitely, and noticing that you are unbounded aliveness.
I’m not talking about another thought that says that you are unbounded aliveness. I am talking about the direct realization. And it’s not a complicated thing. It’s very simple. It is very mundane. It is not some psychedelic experience.
It is just what remains perfectly obvious when you are still for a moment. Don’t grasp.
Of course, almost inevitably, at some point, there will be a thought that identifies grasping as the problem. And a thought that identifies stillness as the solution. And a thought that will propose a strategy of restraint and vigilance as a means to reach stillness.
But that’s off the mark. Don’t fall for it.
That’s actually more waiting. That’s putting off life. Putting off freedom.
Whereas, what I’m suggesting is an open, curious, alive inquiry into present, unbounded aliveness.
See how quickly and subtly thought attempts to twist direct realization into a strategy that is actually just more waiting?
And when you see that, don’t make that into a problem either. Because that’s what happens.
And the point is not to remain forever still. Nor is it to sustain a feeling state that you now identify as unbounded aliveness.
That’s more waiting. Don’t fall for it.
The point is just the recognition. And if you can merely remain still and not grasp in this open, curious manner for just long enough, you must recognize.
I believe the trick is the “open, curious” part. If you are staring it down…that seems to have the opposite effect.
Staring it down…like you’re going to get something, like a cat waiting to pounce…that’s not open and curious. That’s actually more waiting.
Open and curious is that you don’t need anything to resolve. You’re not waiting to pounce. Pouncing would be a resolution…striking to kill.
Open and curious is not for a goal or particular outcome. It is ongoing. It is just open and curious.
You will re-contract. You will forget. You will become hypnotized again. That’s fine. Expect it. It’s not a problem.
So don’t turn any of this into waiting.
Right now. Seriously, right now. Be still in an open and curious manner for just a moment right now.
Don’t grasp for a moment. Right now.
And that’s it. Just be curious. Inhabit this experience for this moment without trying to get to the next. Without looking for a resolution.
Feel what it’s like to be fully. No waiting. The space to be right now. No grasping.
Just for this moment.