(Conversations with Rad Dad)
Q: For the past few days I have been overwhelmed by dark thoughts and feelings to the point where I really thought I was going to lose my mind. I’ve been practicing non-duality for a long time and really thought I had things under control, but apparently I’ve made very little progress. Besides being frustrating, it’s also at times truly terrifying. Do you have any suggestions?
Rad Dad: Didn’t you e-mail me awhile back? Didn’t we go through the ‘bad weather’ metaphor together and get you back on track? I guess not. Bad, bad teacher I am! But you’re not alone. A lot of people get stuck in the very same place. I’m right in the middle of a poker game, but let’s try this one more time: Ask yourself, to whom do these terrifying thoughts come?
Q: Yes, yes, I know all the self-inquiry exercises, but when I am unexpectedly overwhelmed I am unable to think clearly enough to enquire. I lose all sense of big self and become, once again, lost in thought.
RD: Awareness is never taken by surprise.
Q: Easy for you to say.
RD: Investigate your statement, ‘I have been practicing non-duality for a long time.’ The issue is that you are still relating to yourself as a separate self, an individual entity made up of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions, when, in fact, you are that which knows all these elements, but are not the elements themselves. They are in you but you are not in them. There is no ‘doer’ practicing anything. That would be the epitome of duality.
Q: But what can I do in the middle of a thought storm?
RD: Your original nature is fearless and untouched by any and all appearances. Let’s try the weather metaphor again. Think of the calm blue sky, pure empty space. Black clouds appear, torrential rains fall, lightning strikes, thunder resounds. Eventually they all dissolve back into the calm blue sky, this limitless nothingness. Your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions are the clouds and rain, thunder and lightning. You, presence-awareness, are the sky.
Q: As I said, I get tangled up in thoughts and can’t free myself.
RD: It’s just one thought against another. A thought comes, ‘I am stuck in my thoughts,’ and then another, ‘How can I free myself?’ Is this it?
Q: Yes. What can I do?
RD: Ignore your thoughts. The sky is not bothered by the clouds.
Q: Isn’t that just another thought?
RD: As long as we are conversing we will use thoughts. The point is to realize that which knows your thoughts. What exists prior to thoughts?
Q: I’m not sure anymore.
RD: Do you exist? Are you alive?
Q: Of course.
RD: How do you know? Did you have to ask yourself? Refer to anything?
Q: No, I just know that I exist. That I am.
RD: That’s all you need to know. You exist prior to thoughts arising, you exist as thoughts linger, and you exist after they have disappeared. You don’t come and go with your thoughts, feelings, sensations, or perceptions. You are that which is always present. Celebrate this fact and let me get back to my poker game.