What is it?
That which doesn’t come and go is awareness. Now, don’t think about that, just relax into thought-free awareness. Rest. Know yourself as that restfulness.
Thoughts will come and go.
Emotions will arise, then fall.
Sensations will happen.
But the open, thought-free space of awareness remains undisturbed in the midst of that, if you notice.
Those who first come to websites like this, seeking enlightenment, often have no recognition of their true nature as awareness. That’s why they’ve been so busy toying with this method or practice, thinking about this or that a lot, avoiding painful feelings, or going back into the story of past and future. They are trying to figure out who or what they are.
Some people are ready the moment I meet them to just rest into present awareness as what they are. They’ve been doing inquiries, methods, and practices, all of which just keep them focused on a personal self that is striving towards something in the future. But that something never seems to come. Perhaps a state happens, blissful or enlightening. Maybe they have a spiritual experience here or there. But the seeking just continues until they begin to rest as what they are, this open, restful, awake space that frankly does not care about getting somewhere. In this timeless restful space, there is nowhere to go, nothing to find, and nothing to work out in your personal story. You just are, here, now. Simple.
For others, it isn’t that simple at first. There can be a strong resistance to resting as that space. They may even resist any encouragement I give to recognize present awareness. They need a little inquiry, a little looking into who they have taken themselves to be. They have been identifying, in one way or another, with a personal self. And so I use the Unfindable Inquiry with them. See livingrealization.org. When we identify with a personal self, that story often carries with it a belief in personal lack, unlovability, or inadequacy. And so we unconsciously fight against the natural flow of life, often finding ourselves repeating the same relationships where we get triggered into feeling deficient or actually blocking ourselves from happiness and the natural present sense of abundance and perfection.
I’ve worked with people who had a strong resistance to naturally resting into the present moment, precisely because there was a belief in being a deficient self or some story line around, “There’s something wrong with me and I have to fix it.” We would then do a proactive inquiry, like the Unfindable Inquiry, not to fix the self but to see that it is an illusion. There is no deficient self that needs fixing. And that seeing cuts through the belief, allowing a natural relaxation into the present moment. Life starts changing for these people. Things began to flow more easily. They feel less and less triggered in relationship or not triggered at all precisely because we did the inquiry. Some of those people would then ask, “Why was there a need to do the inquiry when I could’ve have just rested in presence, that’s much simpler?” My only answer is, “because you couldn’t rest and you thought you were a deficient person.” We need to hear or do what we need to hear or do at any given point in time. Sometimes methods help and sometimes there is no need for them at all. They can even be overused, if we start looking for stuff to inquiry into, when what would really be beneficial is just resting and allowing everything to come and go freely. That’s a non-doing.
But ultimately, whether one immediately recognizes awareness or does some inquiry on the personal story, it leads to the same knowing of freedom and fullness in life as it is each moment.
Be tuned into what you need at any given time. Even resting as awareness can become a way of avoiding really uncomfortable feelings. One can begin to tune out of his body, unwilling to feel. Resting in space becomes like an escape, another way to seek to get out of life. Don’t look at awareness that way. If you are doing that, a little inquiry might be beneficial. Even the best spiritual pointers can be used as a way to avoid experiencing life in its fullness. A good inquiry will show you that emotions come and go, and they aren’t really hooked into any personal story. Just energy arising. This is highly healing and beneficial to see. And inquiry may be exactly what you need if you are trying to tune out or use awareness as a way to escape. Inquiry shows you that there is no self to tune out of life or escape.
But sometimes resting as awareness is exactly what you need. You’ve come to the point where all inquires, methods, and practices just don’t work anymore. You aren’t trying to tune out or turn away from uncomfortable feelings. You aren’t trying to kill your personal story. You see it’s just a story. It comes and goes, just like the emotions, but you aren’t identifying with any of it. At that point, just know yourself as what you are, the awareness in which everything comes and goes.
Not identifying with thoughts and emotions has nothing to do with pushing anything away. If thoughts are seen to be transparent, and to come and go, along with feelings and sensations, is there really a need to escape or push something away? When you are trying to escape life or feelings through resting in awareness, your mind is overcompensating. You are trying to hide in order not to feel. Don’t let yourself become a tuned out zombie through recognizing awareness. I’ve seen people avoid and suppress feelings so much that they start treating awareness like a religion. Their minds are focused on descriptions of awareness. They take a sort of absolutistic mental position, as a way not to have to face painful feelings. They aren’t really experiencing the restful, peaceful, thought-free awareness. They only think they’ve recognized awareness. They’ve replaced old personal stories with new nondual stories about awareness. If this is happening, don’t take what I’m saying as if there is something wrong with you. It’s not personal. I don’t say these things to make you feel deficient. I say these things because I’ve seen these traps, over and over. They are easily overcome though.
You will likely resonate with different pointers at different times. This is what I’ve learned through working with people individually. When we need a little inquiry, that’s what pops us. It is right on time, exactly when we need it. It can cut through so much identification with thoughts, emotions and sensations. And when the inquiry runs its course, and is no longer helpful, or is becoming a way to seek, resting as what you are is the most natural thing. Trust it completely then.
Again, all good nondual pointers lead to the same place: present freedom and fullness.
Trust your own experience. Teachers cannot do that for you. Trust what feels right, always. You’ll know when you are using awareness to avoid feelings. You’ll find yourself entangled over and over in personal identification with thoughts and feelings, even while claiming “that’s not me.” It may not be you, but why are you getting entangled so often? Why is relationship triggering you so much?
Deepening happens through recognizing awareness as what you are. There is a trajectory in awakening that has nothing to do with seeking. It’s a natural deepening, where you identify less and less, or not at all, with the temporary thoughts, feelings, and emotions that arise. Yet everything is allowed to arise. You will still have the unique experience of your own life. You’ll never find a voided out space in which nothing unique is happening. And if you do, watch out. I’ve met many people who have come to deny the uniqueness of their experience. They are tuned out of relationship and what is arising, hiding in a space that avoids dialogue, and lots of juicy, interesting things about life that are unique and beautiful. They are suffering in a totally different way than those who identify strongly with a personal story. Unique experience is always happening, but you don’t have to identify with what is happening. It can be honored, celebrated, and allowed, without making a self out of any of it.
Don’t sell yourself short in the game of awakening. If you are identifying heavily with thoughts, emotions, and sensations, rest back into what you are or use the Unfindable Inquiry or some other practice.
But don’t tune out. Let things be as they are. See that everything that arises is inseparable from that awareness. There aren’t two realities: awareness v. things that arise. They are inseparable. If you find yourself favoring awareness as a way to tune out of appearances, you are separating your experience into two parts. So resting or zoning out just reinforces that false division between awareness and what appears. And if you are merely identifying with thoughts, emotions, and sensations and not recognizing what you truly are—awareness, you are still dividing your experience into parts, treating your story as what you are, and completely overlooking the open, spacious experiential knowing of awareness.
Yes, awareness is here, unchanged, undisturbed and totally free of whatever arises.
And yes, everything arises, giving you the unique experience of your own life, unfolding in the present moment, more and more without the sense that you are a story.
This may seem contradictory to the mind. It’s a beautiful paradox that must be experienced to be appreciated. Don’t sell yourself short.