A question has been asked in regard to my spiritual biography, or timeline, as part of an upcoming interview with Jerry Katz. All that I have been able to come up with is a kind of curiosity. Where does the impulse to seek, or anything else for that matter (to love, to work hard, to play, to learn to fly), come from? I don’t know where this came from, or where it started, was the best answer I could think of, but it seemed certain that a better response was hoped for, and that I should be able to come up with such.
Then I remembered a box I had found some years ago. I had moved out of my home in Boulder, Colorado, away from my husband of some 30, on and off, years. I had taken very little with me. Sometime after I had settled, I found this box–the size of a case of wine. I literally had no idea where it came from, had no memory of packing it, and couldn’t even imagine how I would have had access to the diverse contents.
In it were items that ranged from baby footprints, grade school report cards, pictures of a high-school boyfriend, college transcripts, and so on, up to documents related to life as it was about a month or two before I left. As a young child, I’d cut out “spiritual” quotes from magazines and taped them to my mirror, and they were there. There were poems and quotes from Lao Tse, Chuang Tzu, Rilke, and many I’d written myself, a tiny book by Anthony DeMello, and other bleed-through souvenirs that seemed to point to a lifetime of seeking. Is any other life any different? Or, is this not the way life appears? Now?
The point is not just when does seeking begin, but when and where do I begin? The words “you were never born” become clear. And from that, the whole linear trajectory falls apart. Seeking never began, nor does it end, because it doesn’t begin or end with an individual seeker. In fact, it looks very much like becoming and unbecoming, going out and returning, are both happening concurrently, (not in time, not in a box) to no-body, now. It is a dance, the play of consciousness/awareness. Flux, flow. All one movement, like a horse swishing its tail–not separate from a horse, or a fly, or the air–but without intent, or volition, or meaning. This points not towards despair, but rather to the wonder and amazement of it all when the boundaries of the box dissolve. This Uni-verse goes on forever, without division.
The thing is, we all have such a box–right here, in our “heads” (but not really there, either–in fact, where is this past?). The random stringing together of memories, which are nothing more than presently occurring fleeting images and thoughts, are no more substantial or reliable than images from a dream, in that we can recount them in vivid detail, as well as the feelings engendered, but can we really say we were there? Yes, and no. Where am I?
This scrapbook we call “me” can be investigated to determine when and where, or if, we ever began. Nothing substantial can be pointed to. The whole “tiny mad idea” of separation hinges on the emergence of an individual, and seems to be maintained by the idea of becoming somebody, someday in the future. In the arena in which the question is asked, that implies a trajectory from identification as a separate self, to seeking “enlightenment.” Who does that?! Outside of thought, images, and objects on the shelf, can you grab hold of somebody, anybody? Ever?
“You stick to what you are in the beginning, without embellishment or attachments. It is an imaginary trap you are caught in.” Nisargadatta Maharaj
This quote points to what that box, the concept of memory, represents–the embellishments and attachments. Can it be seen that it’s all like tumble weeds collecting around a barbed-wire fence? See the insubstantial nature, the randomness, of the items in the box. We won’t even go into the further elucidation that the objects only exist as, and not separate from, consciousness itself.
Empty the box, shake out the contents, and what have you got? The opportunity to experience what was there before this collecting/piling-on began. Whenever possible, avoid any and all satisfactory conclusions.
“Q: I do not have to do anything?
M: What have you done so far?” Nisargadatta Maharaj, Seeds of Consciousness