A devotional song sung by one of my oldest friends, Seth Bartlett, aka: Dhyana Yogi, with me on tabla. Recorded in 1981.
We might make fun those who bemoan, ‘Nothing is sacred anymore,’ but when you look at the present condition of our world, nothing is sacred. With every conceivable experience at our fingertips, there is very little, if anything, left to the imagination. Our lives are inundated with endless images of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The amount of information available, regardless of its accuracy, drives one group in one direction, one group in another, creating seemingly insurmountable division. Everything is overexposed, and in the process, can lose its meaning, its essence, its soul.
But if you look more deeply at our experience, we find that it’s not that nothing is sacred, it’s that no ‘thing’ is sacred.
Searching for peace and happiness, we first look at our objective experience for an answer. After all, this is what we have been taught, conditioned to do – seek our bliss in relationship to things in the world.
All things, all objects, though they might provide momentary pleasure and happiness, are ever-changing, temporary appearances in the world. All ‘things’ come and go, and therefore, even though we might hold a thing, an object, special, it is not sacred, it is not of God, the Absolute, the Divine. God, the Absolute, the Divine, is not a thing.
God, the Absolute, the Divine, has no objective qualities. It is ever-present and unchanging, untouched by any activity of the mind, body, or world.
By setting aside all that is temporary, that is, all objects – thoughts, memories, emotions, sensations of the body, and all perceptions of the world – we are left with our essential being: that which exists prior to, during, and after any appearance of the body, mind, or world has come and gone.
And what is this essential being that remains when all appearances are set aside?
‘Nothing’is truly sacred.
You don’t have to do anything to be nothing, which is what we all are at our core. Or, more accurately, we are no ‘thing’ at our core – our essential being has no objective qualities. It is not a thing. Resting in and as no thing, or nothingness, our true nature is revealed as awareness or consciousness, the knowing presence in all experience that is not itself an experience. A knowing presence that is always here and has no boundaries, whose nature is of peace, because it is undisturbed and unchanging, of happiness, because it is inherently full, and of love, because it is indivisible.
‘Once all our beliefs are uprooted, it’s not really necessary to assert what is true . . . even the assertion that consciousness is infinite and eternal should be thrown away.’ ~ Rupert Spira
All has been said.
Not all has been done.
I hope to see you in the marketplace.
And when our eyes meet for a timeless moment . . .
. . . that we share a smile.
And don’t forget to play, sing, and dance!
Peace, happiness, and love to all
. . . in the Now Year!
We like to ask questions, such as: Who? Why? How? What? When? Where?
It could be said that our entire lives are driven by asking questions and finding or not finding their answers. Practical questions aside, as they are necessary for everyday survival, we might be slightly curious or even struggle to find our purpose in life and ask so-called ‘serious’ questions.
Who am I? Why is there suffering? How can I find happiness? What is the meaning of life? When will I know I’m enlightened? Where can I find the answers?
Sit for a moment without asking a question, not even ‘why am I doing this?’
Notice the brief moment of stillness, emptiness, before . . .
. . . a thought arises.
Keenly observe the thought as it appears, lingers for an instant, and then disappears.
It’s like watching the night sky when suddenly a shooting star appears out of seemingly nowhere, streaks across the sky, and vanishes into the darkness.
For the sake of inquiry, you might ask yourself (HA!), in what does the thought appear? In what or where does it linger? And to where does it vanish?
Where could anything appear other than in that which knows all experience, consciousness itself? Where could anything linger other than in consciousness itself? Where could anything vanish other than in consciousness itself?
There is nothing other than consciousness.
Can you find anything outside of consciousness, the knowing presence that exists prior to any appearance in the body, mind, or world?
You can’t. It would be like finding a shooting star outside of the night sky.
Consciousness asks no questions because it is the answer.
Set aside all ideas of who you think you are, what you think of others, of things, of the world, of the Universe, and consciousness will give you, we, the gift of peace, happiness, and love.
No questions asked.
We all seek happiness. All 7.8 billion of us are on one path or another in search of happiness.
Some of us seek happiness through financial success and material gain.
Some of us seek happiness through relationships.
Some of us seek happiness through substances.
Some of us seek happiness through experiences, sometimes extreme or even death defying.
Some of us seek happiness through a spiritual practice or philosophical dogma, some through the world of science or a political movement.
Whatever your path, it will be endless, as there is no end to the search for happiness. You will achieve one objective and be satisfied for a time, but then the thrill of the achievement, whatever it may be, fades and you are off in pursuit of the next objective.
Experience tells us that there is no path to lasting happiness.
Except for one.
The pathless path.
On the pathless path there is nothing you need to acquire to attain lasting happiness.
On the pathless path there is nothing you need to become to realize lasting happiness.
On the pathless path there is nowhere you need to go, nowhere you can go, to arrive at lasting happiness.
And where is this pathless path?
In which direction do you turn to find it?
In which direction does the sun turn to illuminate itself?
The seeker is the sought.
You are already the happiness for which you seek.
Now, go out into the world and spread the good news.
Without saying a word.
We lead very busy lives. Most of our days are spent going here and there, working, shopping, meeting friends and associates, participating in recreational activities, picking up children, going to appointments, finding a shelter for the night, scrambling to make ends meet, etc. In other words, doing, doing, doing.
At the moment, our so-called freedom has been severely restricted. We have had to retreat into our houses, many of us under voluntary lockdown, only going out for necessities.
To retreat is to ‘draw back’. We are drawing back from our active exterior lives and spending more time at home, with others or alone. Our life of doing has been curtailed, leaving us more time to be with ourselves.
Many of us will spend this precious time . . . doing. We humans are masters of distraction. Even in our isolation, we spend time on our devices, talking on the phone, doing long ignored chores, planting gardens, listening to or playing music, dancing, playing games, reading, watching the news on TV, watching movies, binge watching series, eating, taking stock of our pantry and toilet paper, wondering what and how our neighbors and loved ones are doing. Some of these activities are necessary for survival. Some are not. Or should we say, many of the distractions are necessary for the survival of our separate self, our ‘doing’ self.
We have drawn back from the world, but we are still mostly doing. This could be a unique opportunity for many of us to stop being a human ‘doing’ and open up to our essential nature, that of being a human ‘being’.
For just a moment, observe your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions – your worried thoughts about the pandemic, the strong emotions regarding the health and safety of friends and loved ones, perhaps a queasiness in the belly over an uncertain future, and, looking out on the crippled world, wondering what terrible thing is going to happen next.
Now ask yourself, who or what is observing all these passing occurrences of the body, mind, and world? A thought is observed coming and going, but that which observes it doesn’t come and go with it. There is an element within you, within all of us, that we can call the ever-present observer, but where is it?
The observer cannot be found because it is not a thing, not an object, yet it is undeniably present. And it is your, our, essential being. Notice this timeless, unchanging, knowing presence in you, in us, that has no beginning or end, no time when it is not present – it is infinite and eternal. Then realize that there cannot be two of the infinite and eternal. This is who we are.
After years of abuse, the Earth is finally getting a chance to breathe. Because of the restricted human activity, pollution is down. The skies are clearing, the air more pure to breathe. Perhaps Earth will even cool down a degree as we stay at home, away from our vehicles and industries.
We are being offered the opportunity to slow down, to stop doing for a moment, to breathe deeply with the Earth and simply be. And in this stopping, maybe even recognize our essential self as the borderless, timeless, observing awareness that it is and find the peace and happiness at the core of our shared being.
All things come to an end, and the pandemic, with its great cost to humanity, will be no exception. And perhaps, just perhaps, having been able to spend some time just being rather than doing, we will recognize the one in the many, and love, respect, help, and serve our fellow beings in this unwavering light of unconditional awareness.
Whatever is happening is happening in awareness. Not to awareness.
As individual selves, we think things are happening to us, but that is not our actual experience.
When we identify as separate selves, then yes, things happen to us that make us feel happy, angry, inspired, or depressed. But when we look for the self to which things happen, we can’t find it. All we find is a conglomeration of ever-changing thoughts, images, memories, emotions, bodily sensations, and perceptions of the world through our five senses. These are all temporary qualities, and therefore can’t be considered part of our essential nature.
The only thing that is not temporary in our experience is awareness – that which knows all experience but itself is not an experience. Experiences come and go, but awareness does not come and go with them.
Ask yourself, does awareness, the knowing element in all experience, happen in a thought, or does thought happen in awareness? This is easy to confirm one way or the other. Which comes first, a thought or awareness? Thoughts are continually coming and going, but that which knows them doesn’t appear and disappear along with them. For just a moment, sit quietly and observe a thought entering your field of awareness, lingering for a moment, and then leaving your field of awareness. You, that is, your essential being of ever-present awareness, exists prior to, during, and after a thought has appeared, lingered, and disappeared. And this is true for all of the temporary qualities of the body-mind, or so-called separate self.
These observations being irrefutable, we can only conclude that our essential being is awareness itself. And if we investigate the qualities of this awareness, no limits or boundaries can be found. It is therefore infinite and eternal, and we can’t each house our own private infinite and eternal awareness. Where is there room for two?
You, I, we, are this one and only awareness. So as you move through this temporary life form as a body-mind, remember that all things happen in you as infinite and eternal awareness, not to you as a limited separate self. And with this revelation, happiness prevails.
Whatever happens is happening in awareness, not to awareness. This is very reassuring, in fact, completely liberating when you are established in this realization. When you are having a difficult time, don’t worry. Just as a violent thunder and lightning storm leaves the sky unchanged, untarnished, and unharmed, similarly, awareness, our essential shared being, is untouched, unchanged, and unharmed by whatever is happening in it.
We beat a dead horse over and over – wake up, Wake Up, WAKE UP! – and still the horse is dead.
As a spiritual seeker we beat our heads against the illusionary wall of separation over and over, hoping that some time in the future we will wake up, Wake Up, WAKE UP! But still we are dead to our true nature.
The separate self, the body-mind, the ego, seeks the happiness as proclaimed by sages, past and present, and goes to any means possible to find it. It seeks it through possessions, relationships, substances, thrills, or meditates, prays, chants mantras, surrenders to a guru . . . and is never satisfied. It might find momentary relief in some of these experiences, but all experiences come and go, which leaves the separate self in an endless and futile quest for relief. Relief, as it turns out, from itself.
The separate self cannot find the happiness it seeks because the separate self doesn’t exist. There is no ‘me’, as we have been taught to believe, to do the seeking in the first place.
The separate self is a body-mind made of flesh, sinew, and bones, housing thoughts, images, emotions, and sensations, perceiving the world through the five senses. All these attributes are continually changing, forever coming and going, and therefore can’t be considered real in the truest sense.
For something to be real shouldn’t it be ever-present and unchanging?
What in our experience is ever-present and unchanging?
The only thing ever-present and unchanging in our experience is awareness, that which knows experience but is itself not an experience.
Once this aware-presence at the core of our being has been identified, ask yourself, can anything exist outside of this awareness? Does anything in our experience enter our awareness from some other place? Does a cloud enter the sky from a location other than the sky? And, strictly speaking, awareness itself is not a place. As it is ever-present, it is not limited to one particular location in time or space. It is beyond, or prior to, time and space, and therefore infinite and eternal.
Where in the infinite and eternal is there room for two?
Awareness is all there is.
If awareness is all there is, everything must be made of awareness. There is no horse, no self, no other, no thoughts, sensations, or perceptions, no world, no galaxy, no universe. There is only awareness and its infinite manifestations.
So now, for the two hundredth time, let’s beat on one more dead horse: the idea of ever-present awareness. We have come to understand that awareness is all there is, that nothing comes from outside of awareness, that everything is made of awareness, and finally, as awareness is the source of all things, it wants for nothing.
Now let’s take our neti neti stick of discrimination and with one pure stroke beat the concept of awareness into oblivion . . .
. . . and vanish into the full emptiness of the centerless center of our shared being.
As someone dedicated to discovering your original nature, awakening or becoming enlightened, you’re either one of two things: a separate self seeking the everlasting peace and happiness of absolute consciousness, or absolute consciousness manifesting as a separate self, but only ever being itself.
If you look closely at your experience, you can only be the latter – absolute consciousness manifesting as a separate self, but only ever being itself.
So the first thing you can do is relax. Enjoy your life experience, your manifestation as a so-called individual body-mind with its endless parade of positive, negative, and neutral thoughts coming and going, waves of diverse emotions washing through you, the ever changing array of sensations coursing through your body, the variety of sense perceptions of the world experienced through your five senses.
Then ask yourself the question, is this separate self, this seeker, real? If it is, then we should proceed with our search using the various tools offered to the seeker, e.g., teachers, gurus, study, retreats, meditation, mantra, yoga, etc. If it is not, then we can abandon our search and live our lives in accord with our essential being, that is, absolute consciousness, whose very nature is one of peace, love, and happiness.
When we seriously investigate the elements of the separate self, that is, its thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions, we discover that they are all temporary occurrences, forever changing, and therefore can’t be considered real in the truest sense.
For something to be considered real it would have to be ever-present and unchanging, unmoved by any experience of the body, mind, and world. It would have to be beyond time and space, and therefore infinite and eternal.
So trying to prove that the separate self, our body-mind, is real is like trying to prove that we have captured wind in a bottle. The separate self, the seeker, can never find the infinite and eternal because it is already a manifestation of it. It’s like the wind looking for the sky.
For just a moment, shift your perspective from that of an individual self made up of temporary attributes seeking the infinite, to the unchanging infinite itself, the ever-present knowing within you, that seeks nothing as it is all things. You can do this, as you know intuitively that this ever-present knowing is at the core of your being, the source of your being, our being.
At first glance, it seems as though we have two choices, to identify as one of two things: the infinite and eternal Self manifesting as a human being, or the finite and time-bound separate self forever grasping after the truth. But, in fact, there is no choice – there is only the choiceless awareness of just one thing that is not even a thing.
Just as each pebble on the shore is unique, yet shares ‘rockness’ at its core, each individual self is unique, yet shares consciousness, or knowing, at its core.
Don’t just cast this off as some interesting concept. Recognize the truth of our original shared nature and witness the division, the separateness, fall away, and ultimately feel the love, peace, and happiness that remains.
And this shared nature isn’t just with others. As the nature of consciousness itself is infinite and eternal, no thing can exist outside of it, and this being the case, all things are made of consciousness.
Acknowledge your unmoving, unchanging nature that is at the source of all things, including that of the pebbles on the shore, and relish your, our, unshakeable ‘rockness’.