Before I begin working with anyone, one of the first things I look at is the degree to which there is transparency and alignment in the person’s experience.
Transparency refers to complete honesty. I listen to whether the person is being completely honest about their experience. Are they telling me exactly what they believe, exactly what their suffering is all about and exactly what they are seeking? Are they being completely honest about how they view themselves? For example, is the person telling me that they believe they are good enough when they really don’t believe that at all? Are they putting on any fronts? One way I encourage transparency is about sharing openly about myself. I share not only the deep experience of freedom in my life but also the triggers, addictions and anxieties that I have experienced.
Alignment refers to whether what the person thinks is true actually aligns with their actual experience.
For example, a person might tell me that ego is illusory or that there really is no self or that emotions just come and go and are not who they are. They may go on and on about how awareness is their true identity, God is in everything, how we create our own reality or some other spiritual insight. But are those just ideas they have learned and memorized from teachings and books? Is that their actual experience? If I say that life is X because I have heard a teacher say that, but my actual experience is that life is Y, then what I think or say is not in alignment with my actual experience.
Sometimes by bringing up the topic of alignment, I am able to use the Living Inquiries to quiet the seeking a person is experiencing. For example, if the person states that “nonduality is the true nature of reality,” but their actual experience is not nonduality, but rather separation, we can look at this idea of nonduality with the Inquiries. The person can begin to see that it is a state that they have heard teachers talk about and that they are seeking that state.
By deconstructing what they are seeking, this kind of overcompensation can relax. The seeking towards that state can relax. This is ultimately what the words presence, awareness and nonduality are pointing to. They are pointing to no longer seeking those things. Those things are seen as concepts.
It is very difficult for people to live in alignment between what they think spirituality is or should be and their actual experience. Take Facebook for example. In many spiritual chat rooms, you will find people talking about higher states of consciousness or deep realizations. But when you ask them if that is their actual experience, they often say “no.”
Why do this? Why talk about states and things that are not our actual experience? This kind of thinking just leads to more seeking.
When we are totally transparent and when our thought stream and words align with our actual experience, we stand in the place where a thorough investigation of experience can happen. Everything else is self-deception and mental overcompensation. Purporting to be in a state that you are not actually experiencing is like living in a dream. And awakening is about awakening from those sorts of dreams and living in the present moment, as it actually appears.