Freedom is the freedom to see clearly. We may speak about awakening as if we know it but it isn’t known, it’s experienced. Thought can reflect on that experience and relate some parts of it in words but it isn’t simply a thought. It’s not some formula or story, it’s not a belief or a viewpoint. Awakening is seeing clearly. Seeing the way it is.
A friend of mine is in the police. He tells me that if you collect ten eye witness statements of the same event you’ll end up with ten differing accounts, sometimes radically different. This isn’t just an interesting snippet of information, it’s a clue; a clue to the way mind works. It tells stories and it doesn’t much care how true the stories are, it’ll cling to them anyway.
We hold our memories to be true accounts of what actually took place, but as hard as it is to accept, our memories are never just that. They represent our experience of what took place, which is quite different. It is highly subjective. Not only that but over time they fade and distort. As a record of events they are unreliable. And yet they represent for each of us the main source material from which we draw our sense of identity; our sense of me.
Imagine you lost all of your memories. You can’t remember where you were born, your family or friends, where you live, who you support, who you believe in. You can’t even remember your name. Who would you be?
You’d be forced to live in just this moment wouldn’t you? You don’t know where you’ve come from, so you don’t know where you’re going. You don’t spend much time thinking of the future because now your past is a blank slate, your future is too. You don’t know what you’ve done so you have no idea what you’re capable of. You have no basis on which to make choices other than the information at hand in the moment and any sense of inclination you might feel one way or the other.
If you can imagine that clearly, you’re not so very far from imagining what it’s like to awaken. With awakening it’s not that we lose all of our memories, but with the realisation that there never was a self, we come in time to see these as the stories they are; just stories in thought. Not real beyond the experiencing of them as thoughts in the moment.
We see thoughts of the future as more stories, equally unreal. Will it be this way or that way? We don’t know. These are just more stories. Without a sense of self to anchor to we dwell in the moment; in this experiencing right now. And as we spend less and less time indulging in thought stories, so these begin to fade and the tendency for them to arise dwindles.
We don’t try to stop thoughts, we’re not averse to thinking, it’s not the enemy. It just happens less and less because we have no inclination to tune into it. This radical readjustment of our relationship with thoughts is one of the key aspects of an awakened life. We see clearly upon awakening, if we haven’t before, that thoughts do not represent reality. Seeing this we do not seek the truth through thought and whatever arises in thought is regarded as just another story arising, and barely attended to.
It’s worth spending a little time considering this. It’s worthwhile taking time to notice just how much we rely on thoughts as being real. And it’s more than worthwhile to consider each important sounding thought that arises and asking ourselves, is this really true? Are we certain it is this way?
If it’s an emotive thought, if it’s highly charged then where has this emotion arisen from? Why is it important? Trace the story back to its origins. Are they true? Are we certain? Was it something we were told? By whom? Did they really know for certain or was it something they were told?
When we question in this way, we’re questioning our very identity. We’re seeing the habits and patterns of thoughts as they arise. And that gives us a clue as to the architecture of this sense of self, the building blocks from which we form our idea of what it means to be ‘me’.
Now clearly if we go around questioning deeply like this it’s going to take some time and some effort. It might also have a destabilising effect; where once there was certainty we might now find doubt. That’s good from the point of view of awakening but it can bring challenges into other areas of our lives, consider yourself warned.
Apart from what is seen in the present. no one who is awakened would say they are certain about very much, if anything at all. They don’t need to be. They dwell in this living moment as the experiencing of the present, not separate from it. The appearance of certainty comes from thought and thought is seen as a ‘story about …’ rather than that which is true. They know that thought is fallible, the senses are fallible, memory is fallible, words are inaccurate and therefore fallible.
The only thing that is not fallible is the awareness of this; the experiencing of it. The experiencing never changes. It is the constant, unbroken experiencing, beyond time and space that is the real. It is all that is real and it is limitless, beautiful, deep beyond vastness, apparently infinite if such a word even makes sense in this context. With no separation it is all love. One without objects, and therefore not one as it cannot be said to ‘be’. And yet it is all and can be directly experienced. In fact, upon awakening we realise we’ve experienced it our whole lives, we just never recognised it for what it is. It is the end of all seeking, never separate from us because it is us; the real us; the true Self; the Source; Brahman; God. Why label it, it just is as beingness.