This Too Shall Pass II

‘This too shall pass.’ This common phrase has been around for a long time, its origin attributed to, among others, early Persian poets, the Bible, Judaism, and various Western and Eastern philosophers. A version of it can be found in most world cultures and for good reason – it’s a starting point for a true understanding of the nature of experience. If we pay any attention to what’s going on around us, it’s obvious that all things come and go. Some things take longer than others to arise and pass away, but the rise and fall of all objective experience is inescapable, and many of us base our life’s actions on this inevitability.

We usually say ‘this too shall pass’ when we find ourselves in an unpleasant situation, one we’d rather avoid or not experience at all. It might be physical like a sickness, or psychological like a bad mood. Whatever it is, we assume it is I, the personal self, who says ‘this too shall pass’. But the personal self consists solely of passing attributes. Try to name one characteristic of the personal self that doesn’t come and go and you can’t. The body-mind is comprised of thoughts, images, emotions, sensations, and perceptions of the world. All constantly changing attributes, coming and going, appearing and disappearing like colorful fall leaves floating down a mountain stream.

So if there is no personal self, who or what is actually saying this?

Whoever or whatever is saying ‘this too shall pass’ cannot itself be passing, otherwise how would it know anything was passing? It’s like the difference between sitting on the edge of a stream watching the leaves drift by and being one of the leaves.

Identify that within you that never comes and goes, that is ever-present and aware, and you have found your essential being. Although that isn’t quite true, as your essential being was never lost in the first place, it was just mistaken for a drifting leaf. But once you discover this unchanging element of being within you, within all of us, it can be said with assurance that this understanding shall never pass.

A Fruitless Attempt

‘Are we not wasps who spend all day in a fruitless attempt to traverse a window-pane while the other half of the window is wide open?’ ~ Wei Wu Wei

Gap In The Clouds

We experience thoughts coming and going, but after one thought disappears and another one arises there is a gap. Where are we in this gap between thoughts?

Do we, the one who is aware of thoughts coming and going, disappear when a thought disappears and the gap appears? No. We are still here, in the gap. So we could now say, ‘I am the gap.’

But there is no gap.

To say that we are the gap between thoughts would be like saying that the sky is a gap in the clouds.

Just as there is only the unbroken continuity of the sky, sometimes obscured by the clouds, but never not there, there is only the unbroken continuity of the presence of awareness, sometimes obscured by our thoughts, sensations, or perceptions, but never not there.

Now ask yourself, who or what is it that notices the thoughts, gap, clouds, sky, and awareness?

But before you answer, here’s a hint: there is no ‘who’ or ‘what’.

Don’t Name It

We all have feelings. We feel happy, content, peaceful, angry, sad, depressed, bored, lonely, anxious, etc.

What is a feeling, really? Most of us accept feelings as part of our essential nature, but is this our actual experience?

All feelings are temporary, coming and going in the empty, open field of awareness, the source of our being. Rather than name these feelings as good, bad, or neutral, and reacting to them in some way, don’t name them at all.

Go through a day without naming or labeling any of your so-called ‘feelings’ and see what happens.

If you do this, go through a day just experiencing feelings, observing them as they come and go without naming them, you will find that what you considered a previously uncomfortable feeling is nothing more than a temporary appearance in awareness that does not affect the unchanging, knowing presence of awareness itself.

And you are this awareness. You are that. All feelings come and go in you, awareness, but you do not come and go with them. Things happen in you, not to you.

Pay More Attention

Pay more attention to the space in which objects arise rather than to the objects themselves.

Anything that can be experienced – a thought, memory, mental image, mood, a perception of the world through the five senses – is a fleeting appearance in the limitless, silent space within which they appear. They are like characters in a movie whose existence depends solely on the screen.

Pay more attention to the screen, this limitless space within you, this unchanging, ever-present knowing that is the background of all experience. This is the source and substance of your original being. Of our original being, as there can be only one. ‘Limitless’ leaves no room for two.

Then ask yourself, who or what is paying attention to this limitless space?