Awakening, or realising truth, can only happen in the present. It may seem obvious to say, but it’s implied in every teaching or pointer that encourages us to be present with what is, in the moment. One way to look at this is to note that this shift, or awakening happens at a fundamental level. It doesn’t happen in thought, and thought is where ideas of past and future take place. So to see, to awaken to truth, we need to have a different relationship to thought; to hold it very lightly and not consider thoughts to be truth. That may sound straightforward enough, but in practice this process can challenge us over and over again.
Consider this: at this moment look at your present situation. Look at what’s happening; there’s a physical form, sitting or standing. Is this a problem in itself? Not really.
There are sensations in the form. In their simplest sense are these a problem? Is sensing a problem? Not really.
Thoughts and feelings are happening. Is there anything wrong per se with thinking and feeling? Again, no.
So does any of this cause suffering. In themselves they don’t, do they? So where does suffering lie? What is its cause? It only begins when we engage with the subject of thought. When there is identification: me, mine, ours; when we believe the story of thought, the content of thought. If we hold thought to be fundamentally true, a pure mirror for reality, then we create the conditions for suffering to arise.
If we can’t see that thought is just a process, that it’s really nothing more than a self-important commentary with an ‘I’ thought tagged on at the end, then we’re forever caught in its trap. And that’s why we don’t see.
When we awaken we still think, feel, act, but now instead of believing the stories of thought, we see the unity of presence. We notice the processes taking place as processes, not belonging to anyone, not meaning anything – all of that is on the level of the content of thought, and is no longer believed in as the real. It is seen that in the moment it is just this. We can see thought arising; this is noticed. We sense feelings; these are noticed. We register the form; this is noticed. Far beyond any of this, the ownerless oneness of This shines across everything in awareness, as the fundamental truth of all.
And so we’re less trapped by thought. We can still engage on this level and we can still get pulled into the stories and identifications of life, but they have less hold over us; an ever-decreasing hold over us, as we now see clearly there is no ‘I’ at the centre of these experiences. They just happen.
Still, when we engage with the stories of thought, through work, through relationships or just everyday contact we put energy into the thought stories we create. This energy, like all energy seeks resolution; balance. Think weather or the sea: energy moving from high to low in a natural process of resolving to homogeneity. And our thought stories work the same way. We label this desire or aversion, but it’s really just the energy put into thought.
And so the thing we want, the apparent object of our desire, is never the thing that satisfies us. What creates the temporary sense of satisfaction is the belief, again in thought, that the story has been resolved; and so the energy is balanced. When this doesn’t happen, the story remains unresolved; the energy unbalanced, and we label this suffering.
So this comes back again and again to thought and our relationship with the thoughts that arise. And the antidote is to become increasingly present with what is in the moment, not lost in thoughts about it. My mantra is simple: when thoughts keep coming up, I just bring myself fully into the moment and remember: ‘Just this. Just this.’
Is any of this true? Are these words true, or are they also just another story in thought? Well, yes they are. Which is why no-one can make you see, or give you awakening or realisation. It can only be seen through looking, so don’t believe any of these words. Hold them lightly; take them as an encouragement to look, and spend time really looking to see how it is for yourself. At some point awakening happens, but that’s not really the point. Seeing in the moment is. Freedom comes through noticing that which arises without attaching to the stories in thought that lead to identification and belief in thought as real. It’s just seeing in the moment that it is this way: there is a form, sensations, thoughts and feelings happening; awareness of these. Simple. Free.