last year

Seeing Through Conditioning

My friend, John Veen (, just sent me this lovely and clear image. I like it so much I asked if he’d be willing to let me share it with you, and he said yes. So here it is.

It was serendipitous that John sent me this image because on Saturday during the second of the workshops of the workshop series I’m offering a similar thing came up.

I had been describing how it is that in my experience it is valuable to be able to shift from fixation on the conceptual overlay to recognizing the unified nature of direct experience. In my experience this ability to shift focus and recognize the wholeness or vastness that is actually here – what is merely getting filtered through a conceptual overlay – offers us the opportunity to stop fixating on all our problems.

To me, that is freedom. And that freedom isn’t the freedom to solve the problems of the conceptual filter. It is the freedom to recognize what is here always that doesn’t have a problem.

By the way, I am not an advocate of trying to remain forever with your focus shifted to non-conceptual wholeness. I find that to be just another unnecessary trap that leads to more unnecessary suffering. So this is not a practice that I am advocating that you should do in the aim of trying to maintain some perfect state.

Rather, I’m just saying that if you look, you might notice that in direct experience, if you just shift attention or focus from objects, places, people, things, ideas, and all the conditioned conceptual overlay, you can notice that simultaneously (and inclusive of the conceptual overlay) there is simply this non-conceptual. unconditioned aliveness that is perfectly obvious. You don’t have to see something other than what you see. You only need to let your focus soften and then you can recognize that all that is happening and appearing is actually already unified, non-separate, whole. There is no boundary or distinction except in concept. And even concept doesn’t have a boundary or distinction. It’s weird, but it becomes obvious if you just catch a glimpse.

To me this actually translates to benefits for the person. And I know that’s probably offensive to many people. But that’s my experience, delusional or not. I find that this shift saves me, as a person, from an awful lot of unnecessary suffering. It doesn’t have to be all the time. Just when I remember. Then it wipes clean all the mess that seemed to have built up. In this instant of seeing all the problems that I had disappear, and even when I find myself again imagining problems, there remains this little whisper that I can’t deny. The vastness and wholeness that instantly dissolves all problems is still here.

During the workshop I was suggesting that one way to notice this is to notice that we are in the habit of hearing sounds through a conceptual filter and so we assume that when someone is speaking that the meaning is innately there in the sounds and in the hearing. We assume that the sounds are coming from over there and that I am here hearing the sounds coming from over there. But if you just soften your auditory focus you can notice that the sounds are just happening in a unified flowing way and that there is no meaning inherent in the sounds. And the sounds aren’t even happening over there and being heard here as a place separate from there. All that is just the conceptual overlay. In the softening of the auditory focus and the loosening of the fixation on the conditioned conceptual overlay, it is obvious that there is just this flowing happening that leaves us (me, at least) in wonder.

I also suggested that the same kind of exploration is possible with visual experience. We normally believe we see things. But we don’t see things. We see. Or, rather, seeing is happening. And the conceptual filter that we fixate on gives this whole story about objects and distance and location and separation.

Well, anyway, John Veen’s image says it better. Just look at it. It is so clear.

I’ve been saying so many word lately. But I guess it really is true that a picture is worth 10,000 words.

Bless you, John. You’ve saved me even more unnecessary talking.

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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