Last time I said something about what awakening is but not so much about the how. This question came up at the last Nonduality Up North meeting and so I thought I’d share some of that discussion. If you were there you’ll probably recognise quite a lot of what I’m about to say.
The first thing to point out, and as far as optimism goes this is as good as it’s going to get, is that the ‘how’ is fiendishly simple. That’s the good news. If it wasn’t simple then this poor soul would never have awoken. It’s not that I’m thick, but there were always those cleverer than me at school and college and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.
So, it’s simple. Simple is good. But the more eagle-eyed and the more suspicious amongst you will have already taken note that simple does not mean easy. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?
To undertake this inquiry, as we’ve already noted, is to go nowhere. There isn’t a thing to learn, a truth to uncover, a secret to unearth. It doesn’t work like that, not at all. This inquiry works on an entirely different axis. It is more akin to dismantling or unlearning… no I’m not going to use that word, forget unlearning. It’s more like a demolition of the foundations on which the world, your world and it’s most important inhabitant, you, rests. The subsequent collapse is all down to nature, as life works it’s magic and pulls your world apart.
So why hasn’t it happened yet? You’ve been reading all this stuff, maybe meditating? God knows you try to be mindful. So why hasn’t it happened? Well, because you missed something; an important ingredient. There is a difference between a thought and realisation.
In fact if you took that one simple pointer, with no more being said, that in itself would be enough, so the more determined of you feel free to stop reading at this point and go away to chew on that. It really is the crux of this whole thing.
So why don’t you realise? Well maybe it just hasn’t sunk in yet. Maybe you just need a little more time to process this because it usually does take time. Or maybe it’s because of something else. This is going to sound negative but I’m going to say it because it’s true. Most people don’t want to awaken, they really just want a better dream.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. It’s perfectly understandable. I wanted a better dream, we all do. But it isn’t going to happen. It can’t. Old age sickness and death, our three good friends or perhaps better to say allies, are not to be denied. They won’t wait, they won’t go away. As the Buddhists say, and I’ve quoted this before: ‘All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will become otherwise, will become separated from me.’
Perhaps humanity as a whole is not awakened is because we’re not ready to. We’re not quite there yet. So those that do are what you might call the ‘early risers’. And that only happens when someone pursues their inquiry with so much energy they break apart the illusion, or so much determination they quietly chip away at it bit by bit without ever stopping because they just won’t stop, or because the dream is so shit they really can’t stand it and it fuels their passion to see and be free.
Of course it’s really freedom ‘for’ no one. No one awakens. There are no enlightened beings. It’s freedom ‘from’, awakening ‘from’ and frankly ‘enlightenment’ is just a bullshit word best left back in the nineteenth century where it was incorrectly translated to begin with.
But if you you’re determined to do this, if you fall into one of the three categories above or more likely a combination of some or all of them, then it will happen. It can’t not. Just don’t create any expectations around timescales. That’ll end up being a drag, an anchor as will any other expectation, so best cut them free at the start. It takes as long as it takes.
No blog would be complete without an analogy so here we go; analogy time. There are a lot of people who believe they are engaged in a nondual inquiry but who miss the thought/realisation distinction. Escaping the paradigm of self view or world view and its component parts is about as easy as escaping the earth’s gravitational field. You need a bloody big rocket and a lot of fuel. Frankly a lot of people are floating around in hot air balloons wondering why it isn’t happening for them.
You can’t escape the earth’s gravity in a hot air balloon. The view might be nice, your inquiry might yield a few inspirational insights from way up there but sooner or later you’re going to land with nothing but those memories to cling to.
This takes something more. It needs more. Because space, where a rocket is headed, is nothing. It holds nothing, it promises nothing, it will give you nothing and you leave behind everything. Still fancy it? Much better to take a trip in a balloon, don’t you think? Clearly most people do, though I doubt they ever admit it to themselves. It’s best to be honest, you’ll find. This inquiry won’t settle for partial, nearly, almost or a little bit. It requires All. That’s the fuel. All.
So assuming you’re all in, let’s have a closer look at realisation versus thought. Here’s how it works or at least one example of how it works. When the Buddha said everything is change, we can on a purely intellectual level agree, can’t we? We can notice that yes, things change over time. Isn’t that nice? That’s the thought.
Here’s the realisation: all form is not ‘form’ but movement; patterns of movement, from the smallest to the largest. Patterns emerge, they change, they disintegrate. There are no nouns, only verbs. A tree is not a thing, it is ‘treeing’; a collection of processes in constant movement, never still, never separate, an apparent pattern amongst a myriad of patterns that perception separates out and labels, but which defy all labels as they are never still, and which will continuously flow into one another in a never ending dance of apparent becoming. From the smallest to the largest, on any scale and in every way there is movement and motion and change. Based on old information thought attempts to see these patterns, to project ‘what next’ but misses and fails; not that that would ever stop us attaching to such thoughts and worrying about them.
There is no time, beyond the concept of it. As you notice the hands of the clock tick round you’re not seeing time you’re noticing change. All is change. There is no now for there to be a future and a past from. There is simply this ever-changing moment that is ALL. All that we are is a collection of brief patterns and processes amongst and alongside all of the patterns and processes flowing along together, and any categorisation of any part as distinct and separate is arbitrary and fundamentally wrong. It’s only our attachment to thought that keeps us from seeing this clearly.
When you absolutely live in a world that contains no forms, nothing fixed, no boundaries and no separation you will have realised Change. Not that there’ll be a ‘you’ to have realised it, because by that stage such a belief will have long ago fallen by the wayside.
As close as my poor writing skills and limited seeing can render it, that in brief is the realisation of change. It places this human experience in a very different context from the one where there is a me, living a life, within fairly predictable parameters. Such a delusion is false but even when this is seen clearly it can be remembered well enough for us to interact and even get back into role on a day-to-day basis to order our coffee and croissant as we wait for the bus. Don’t worry, no one will see that you see. No one will notice you’re no one.
So when a guide points out that in this process of inquiry you lose everything (every ‘thing’) you get what is meant by that. For this to go from being a thought of change to our lived experience on every level is the journey from this being a thought to a realisation. It’s about taking that thought and working with; using it, noticing how it applies, keeping it present, mindfully, until it filters into everything we see. Until it is how we see, until we have that clarity. Until we’re no longer fooled by ‘things’; by how things appear.
Now where within that would you attach to possessions? Why would you struggle for the big job, the great car, the perfect house, the ideal life? You might not throw all of these away if they’re already present but the relationship to them will change. They won’t mean anything. Nothing will. How can you attach to a process? How can you grab hold of a flow? How can you put a boundary around turbulence?
Okay, that’s an example; just one. You can start anywhere, at any point and drill away letting it fill you, washing away old beliefs and concepts. You have nothing to lose. Well, you have everything to lose, but you’re going to lose it anyway, so why not? But ask if you’re not clear, that’s what I’m here for.
Great article Andrew!
I am working on a email based on my latest inquiry. I think I fall into the dogged determination camp. Once you see that all attachment is suffering and that no ‘thing’ (situation, relationship, possession) is truly fulfilling and will pass, how can there be any other way then forward?