What are objects but a combination of sense perceptions? What is awareness but this sensing, or experience itself? Objects and awareness are inseparable. If you cannot see, hear, touch, taste or smell a cup, it doesn’t exist. Awareness is the experience of seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling. Thus the body is also awareness precisely because it is all about sensing. The cup exists because it is experienced–not by the body as a separate sensing subject, but as the experience itself, ipso facto.
Close your eyes and touch the cup. Is there, in the tactile experience, a cup and a hand? There is only an unnamable sensation. The words “cup,” “hand,” “touch,” are added on, a mental, linguistic overlay, dividing a singular experience into three things. It is this mental overlay, the naming that divides, and creates the appearance of separation. The cup and the hand are therefore inseparable, and inseparable from the experience of touch. There is only this experiencing.
This could sound like boring non-dual gobbledygook. But when you drop the words, you have the wordless, unnamable experience of inseparability. The experience itself is not boring; a sensation itself cannot be bored. Try and find boringness without the idea that there is a separate, individual, experiencer.
Or try wrapping your arms around something or someone you love. (And there can always be that, words pointing to separate something’s, or not.) There is touch, smell, sound, sight, and even smell. That’s it! And that is everything. All else is added on, is a mental overlay, a conditioned response to a belief in separation. And there is that wonderful thing we can agree to call love, just for fun. Wrap your arms around the world as it presents itself to you now, eternally now. Just love, by seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling all of it. No need to add a separate someone into the mix. Experience stands alone, and neither requires nor creates an other to behold. Only beholding.
And this is boring non-dual gobbledygook until it is experienced…and it is known that there is no experiencer…only experiencing. Loving arms, loving nothing, but everything. My love for you knows no bounds. Take out the “my,” the “you,” and all boundaries–what have you got? Poof! Love. Then put them all back together again, just for fun.
Object/awareness inquiry is not the only way to experience the inseparability of the mind/body/world. See that if you smile, the whole world smiles back; if you scowl, the whole world scowls back…with a wink. This is the only tenable use of the concept create your own reality. Take the you out of the equation, a smile emerges, and there it is–smiling world.
There is this belief, resulting in recurring suffering in relation to, what is referred to in these circles as the core deficiency story. No one comes to the inquiries looking for the “brilliant genius,” or the “devoted peacemaker.” This makes sense in the same way psychologists do not tend to see fully integrated, content individuals. The concern here is with the concept of the inevitability, or necessity, of eventually meeting that core root of suffering and its attendant identification as if it were a requisite, necessarily painful, and therefore noble, right of passage.
When we overlay the Enneagram on this trend, what is implied is divisive differences, mainly towards the negative connotation. Fours are hopelessly dramatic, fives are frustratingly mental, and so on. Our defense mechanisms are maddeningly consistent, and ultimately at the source of all inner and outer conflict. Our compensatory style is the way we erroneously assume to protect ourselves from the world, and it is what others find to be difficult about us in relationship. It is the card you wear on your forehead in this game/life of Liars’ Poker. We cannot see it, yet we lead with it in all our interactions. Others can quite clearly see it–it’s right there on your forehead–and relate to us accordingly.
The suggestion here is to level the playing field of such divisive differences–by simply stopping, right here and right now, and fully accepting our own inherent human frailty, in whatever way that manifests in our interactions with the world, thereby creating a more compassionate and utilitarian perception of that world, and the people who appear in it. For instance, “So it seems that I am overly needy (or distant, or unreasonable) in my relations with others.” Then go from this insight/confession, to something as simple as, “Ah, there it is.” One need not be a grasping drama queen, nor a cold-hearted son of a—, or an unmitigated tyrant. See that this doesn’t imply an overarching, fixed and unacceptable identity, but simply a quirky proclivity to respond, a perceptual filter. The implication of the core story is that we will meet, just past the gates of hell, our festering inner nemesis and wrestle with it mightily until it is vanquished, and forever laid to rest (dramatic overlay added by this sometimes-four author). In short, the assumption is–there will be blood. Must we hang ourselves from a cross for our apparent sins?
“Yeah, I kinda suck at that” is an astonishingly simple yet profoundly forgiving way to view the way we show up in this comic-tragic play. We all come up short, one way or another. Knowing and allowing this is how we see we’re all in this together. Not all personal defense styles, such as despots and serial killers, will be subsumed under the designation of quirky, but there’s definitely a core deficiency story in there somewhere that was not inquired into, nor accepted.
The other side of the coin is to see these idiosyncratic proclivities as gifts–not as lifelong curses, but as the offerings we give back to the world. We do not have to do battle with our theoretical disabilities if we are willing to see the inherent strength or talent that is hidden just underneath. Perhaps Shakespeare was a four, Einstein was a five, and Mother Theresa was a two. Go with whatever is annoying about yourself, rather than suffer interminably in the role of misfit.
In relationship, use the acceptance of your own “failings” to happily allow others to be exactly as they are. See the strengths and talents that are barely obscured behind their best defense. Our core stories can all too easily become another’s deal breaker, and vice versa. The reversal of this perception is called forgiveness–the capacity and willingness to see beyond appearances–and it begins at home. Look right at the one you love, or the one you cannot tolerate (often one and the same?), and see that the love you feel for the first is what the latter desperately needs. Both reveal the world as it is, within and without. Remove the Ace of Spades from your forehead, and stand naked before kings and jokers alike. Thy kingdom come.
After a weekend of seeing people from all walks of life go through the Compulsion Inquiry (CI), intermingled with the Unfindable Inquiry (UI), it is apparent that we’re all holding something back, so to speak. And when that point of retention is found and released, great relief can be found and witnessed. You might even call what’s left peace, freedom, or happiness.
It could be said that what is being held onto is a definition of ourselves, an identity that consists of what we think we want or need to be happy, what we’ve decided we don’t want, and the image we carry of ourselves that must be just so, a carefully constructed amalgam of comforts and aversions. And so we behave accordingly. Multiple comforts equals maximum peace. So-called adverse situations create tension, anxiety, anger, and fear. What happens when we stop running continually towards a perceived sense of comfort? When we become willing to NOT turn away, and have a go with the underlying physical sense of discomfort which is driving all this running towards or away from? The zig and the zag relax into a steady baseline of rest.
The CI helps us to let go of the things, substances, activities and circumstances we are absolutely sure we need. We see our comfort zone–a drink in the evening, comfort foods, the perfect companion or lover, and the more obvious compulsions that occupy our time, money, and interest. Whatever it is you think you need; whatever discomfort it is you think you cannot or will not tolerate–those are the “yes, buts” that keep us from freedom, from the peace that surpasses all understanding. Some of them are subtly filed under “Yes, I want this, but the wanting is not really a problem.” Some of them are life or health threatening addictions. Either way, it has been witnessed this weekend that giving up our perceived sources of comfort, even a cookie, is both surprisingly effortless, yet somehow hooked up to a substratum of intense, heretofore unseen sensations that often carry a mighty and surprising pinch.
The UI cuts through the identification we have constructed around these substances and activities, through the behaviors and situations we avoid, and those we cannot or will not stop. Essentially, can you find the one who wants or needs this or that? And can you find the one who chooses as such, or controls the either the behavior driven by these mandates or the situations or circumstances that arise? If not, what is left but what is happening right now? Who could not want that?
The CI shows us the areas in which we are still insisting that life be a certain way, our MDR of perceived comforts. It has the capacity to set us free from that dogged sense of my will; not thine. The suffering that is engendered by the illusion of my will is seen and deconstructed at its root. The UI leaves the whole premise of struggle behind. There’s very little identity left that could quarrel with any of this. The absence of any argument with what is heralds the end of seeking and the suffering that accompanies that movement away from the home we never left.
These are only words, so the mind can get curious enough to look and see. The experience itself needs no words, and no convincing or understanding is necessary at that point. A smile is enough. See for yourself.
I don’t know what is true. I can only describe what the experience is from here. All the following sentences should begin with, “It seems as if,” simply to get the what-is-true thing off the table.
There is this inquiry we’re calling the Compulsion inquiry (CI). Since undergoing and working on this inquiry with Scott Kiloby, there have been significant perceptual, physiological, behavioral, and psychological shifts.
Perceptually, there is more beauty in this world than ever realized. I seem to want to take a picture, or simply stare at, everything. It’s all intricate, fascinating, perfectly stunning. Even pond scum warranted a few moments of amazed appreciation. Can’t seem to find an ugly or a plain face.
Physiologically, tension seems a curious memory. A jaw that felt clenched for millennia has to be grasped with the hand to make sure it’s really there. I must say though, these contractions had to be felt, or brought to the fore, before relaxing. So a kind of tightness was experienced first, more than once, in places I had never thought about much.
Behaviorally, I still smoke an occasional cigarette, but the need, the frantic puffing and sucking is absent. If there are no cigarettes around, there’s about as much hurry to go buy more as I would hurry to buy bananas. I like bananas, but running out of them is not a problem. As a matter of fact, I saw that there were 2 cigarettes left in a pack sticking out of my purse as I was driving yesterday. I passed umpteen gas stations during that drive, and never stopped to buy another pack. I just enjoyed the drive, windows open to this glorious fall day. Perhaps only a fellow smoker would understand that kind of nonchalance in regard to cigarettes.
A couple of times recently, I made myself a drink—but then never drank the thing. When I walked passed the full glass wherever I had left it later, I ended up pouring it down the sink. That’s not to say I won’t ever drink. It’s just that the making-but-not-drinking is a peculiar thing to report. And I have ordered one at a restaurant, yet felt no compulsion to drink it. And curiouser and curiouser–I eat when hungry, and don’t have to finish what is in front of me. Snacking doesn’t happen, seemingly because there’s no edge, no gnawing need for more or something else.
Psychologically, up until very recently, there was this certainty, this oft regaled story of being overextended, coupled with the feeling of being exhausted. This thought was believed: “There isn’t enough time in the day, or enough energy, to do what needs to be done. One person can only do so much.” Now, it’s the seeing that there are things to be done. Some get done. Some don’t. My barely perceptible jaw drops at the simplicity of that realization, and the flood of relaxation and rejuvenation that follows. There is no such thing as “too much.” And any sense of personal agency is an error of perception.
Another amazing, and recent discovery is that annoyance is a totally unnecessary precursor to a movement away. When the word “choice” is replaced by “movement,” annoyance becomes an add-on to any experience. Try this on: people are neither inherently annoying or engaging, there is simply movement towards or away from, with seemingly no one choosing the flow, like colorful tropical fish swimming around the tank. Annoyance can still happen, but it’s now seen as an elective response.
And as a bonus, look to see if there is a command anywhere, in any thought, that says “follow me,” or “believe this.” Thoughts about ourselves, the situation, or the world, do not come with a mandate to be believed. If thoughts were trains coming and going through a station, let it be seen that there is no conductor shouting out “all aboard!” Not even thoughts about non duality, or shoulds, or declarations of love, or those pesky ones that tell us what is wrong with us, have a seal of approval stamped upon them, insuring their authenticity and reliability. They needn’t be the gold standard by which we live our lives.
So essentially, there is this overall sensation of being a relaxed, content, human being that alternately engages in movement and rest; adjectives optional. There’s very little conflict or tension, but both are allowed. The thing is, there is a sense of fun, of play, relief (!), and joy, in all of this. What am I missing? Oh, yeah—this kind of talk can be seriously annoying.
To whom is this all happening, or where is this experience occurring right now? Ha! That’s the kicker. Try and find me.
Look, with eyes closed, or eyes wide open. It is all around, within and without. And then the line between the two disappears, and there is just the heartbreaking beauty of all things. No here, there. No within, without.
Look, wherever you are, and see the fragility and the overcoming. A branch breaks; a bird flies away; and the sky will never look the same. Everything in this phenomenal world, without a doubt, comes and goes. Allowing that, seeing that flux, the inevitable impermanence in each movement, is a thing to behold. Even that which appears solid and unchanging, like an immense brick wall, reveals the crack of its transformation somewhere.
Look, and let the vision of suffering crack your heart wide open. Let the rejuvenation of spring–a robins egg, a bright poppy–bring you out of winters cave. Let it all in. Let it all pass through on its way to what was. Let the heart translate what words cannot describe. It’s there on the tip of your tongue, at your fingertips, and it smells so sweet.
Look. Listen. It is all you. Let yourself disappear into it and become it. All things beautiful passing by, here and now.
Listen here while you look, if you wish: All Things Beautiful ~ Nick Cave