This incredible, inexplicable, impossible existence. An endless eternal universe stretching infinitely in all directions, but as delicate and beautiful as a gardenia petal.
To hold your ideas about it in higher esteem than its actual, ever-present, immediate appearance is the height of arrogance, the greatest sin, and you will suffer for it — not in some future, threatened, punitive afterlife, but right now.
Dropping those ideas, letting the unknowable, intimate this be as it is, is where your redemption lies, free of charge, on offer in limitless supply.
This is just a continual reminder of the only thing that is always evident, and that existence is greater than the mind-created story of self, other, and time which we may have been led to believe was the only solid, real thing there is. It is a reminder that the story, and the objects and events within it are in fact not solid at all, and if grasped for, can never actually be found or touched.
It’s a reminder that suffering can come only from that story, and never the present experience staring you in the face. And that it is staring no one in the face.
In my own experience, this reminder doesn’t necessarily prevent any of the dark times, any of the pain, any of the self-doubt, regret, or fear. But it does turn the volume down. It leaves space for a wry smile that knows it’s all just a trick of the light. A wink and a nod.
Sometimes that’s enough.
“Now that I’m enlightened, I’m as miserable as ever.” – Zen master
This meditation is similar in nature to the previously-described “Finding the Edge”, but with different intent.
Where before we took an inquisitive approach, exploring the present expression of consciousness, searching for that which is not it, now we are free to revel in and celebrate the inescapable truth: that no matter where our attention lands, there is never anything but vibrant, ineffable aliveness.
Let your attention wander where it may: inside the body or out, the ephemeral realm of thought, or a vast panorama on the horizon. A toothache, an itch in the nose, the whir of a computer fan. The deepest silence. Utter darkness. The reflection off of an empty soda bottle. A memory.
In this meditation, we find that there is only ever-present this-ness. It is given in endless supply. It is all there ever is, this infinite, dimensionless fountain.
Sound has no weight. Smell has no size. Sight has no volume. Physical sensation has no mass. Thought travels no distance. Nothing about this present, indescribable, indefinable experience has any dimension at all, which explains its indescribability and indefinability.
This dimensionless experience coalesces to describe a world of dimensions, size, weight, distance, and time, but the existence of that world is an assumption, and one for which there is only circumstantial, unverifiable evidence. Hearsay. Rumors. Myth.
If life ever seems too heavy, check again. You’ll find that the opposite is true.
Yesterday I wrote about “dropping your relationship with the present” when in the grip of negativity. Like all of our meditations here, this can be practiced at any time, in any situation. You don’t have to wait for dark times. In fact, it is generally easier to familiarize yourself with the practice when in a more peaceful emotional state.
We may be carrying the deeply ingrained assumption that “this is happening to me”. Let’s see what happens if we take a moment to drop that assumption. In fact, this happens naturally quite often throughout the day, but it — and the truth it reveals — is easily missed.
Simply allow the present experience to be as it is, regardless of its contents. Allow yourself the respite of having no control, as if you’ve just jumped off a cliff. All of the decisions have been made, gravity has taken over, and there is nothing left to do but look around and soak it all in.
You may notice a sense of equanimity arise, when the present appearance is no longer judged by its meaning or value to your life.
I lied, though. In doing this, you have not, in fact, dropped your relationship to the present. You have removed yourself from the proceedings entirely. You have not forgotten yourself. You have seen the truth that shines, here, now and eternally, beyond yourself.
Once again we have to be careful about defining our terms here. By “negativity”, I am not referring to preference. Obviously, if you suffer a great loss, or miss your flight, or stub your toe, you will have preferred that that not happen, and you will be angry, or grief-stricken, or yell “Fuck!”. That is normal, and in this life, to be expected on an almost daily basis.
The negativity I refer to is a deep-seated, staunch opposition to the present appearance. We can go back to the “core of suffering” to find out what that feels like: This should not be. It’s not a preference, it is an act of war.
Ask yourself, has this moment arrived? Having arrived, could it be any other way than it is? You’ll notice that this moment is always exactly the way it is. That’s why it’s called this moment. To be at odds with what is, is an act of madness, and you suffer for this madness.
For a moment, try dropping the fight, since it is a fight you can never win. Allow this, no matter how painful, to be as it is. Forgive this for being as it is, for it could be no other way. Drop your relationship with the present moment. Dissolve into it. That is how the war ends.
Anything else is insanity.
Suffering, whether it takes the form of depression, anxiety or anything else, always stems from being at odds with this. During these times, then, it’s useful to reacquaint ourselves with what this is.
It may be helpful to first play with this technique in brighter times, as there’s a lot more openness and you’ll be more naturally able to break from conditioned patterns. At any rate, if you are not completely engulfed by suffering, if there’s even a little space in which to investigate, take a moment and ask the above question: What is the problem right now?
Any answer to this will always take the form of a story about the present happening — the past that caused it, the future it will lead to, or the unacceptable state of the people or objects within it. The problem is never, ever identifiable within the actual, immediate appearance. An appearance in which the stories about it, and the problems with it appear as thought, but in actuality an appearance in which no problem can be found.
One that which we are fighting against is seen to be a thought-created, thought-contained story, our attention can expand to wake up to the actuality of the moment, and the struggle can begin to dissolve.
Like any meditation worth the webpage it’s written on, this one can be done anywhere, at any time, whether sitting on a zafu with Nag Champa burning in the incense bowl, or running down Concourse C to catch your connecting flight:
Search all of your experience in an attempt to find the edge, the border between consciousness and the rest of the world, between consciousness and that-which-is-not-consciousness. Find where this appearance ends.
Look everywhere. Use every sense. Focus broadly but intently. Look for anywhere in what is that is not absolutely bursting with intimate, indescribable experience.
One nice side effect of this meditation is that it is impossible to be bored while you’re doing it, so if you’ve got any long bus or plane rides coming up, bookmark this page.
That’s a quote toward the end of a recording of an Eckhart Tolle retreat, and a very important one. It points to the fact that what’s being discussed here is not an idea to agree or disagree with, or a new belief to carry with you. There are no special instructions or hidden keys here.
This is shining a spotlight on that which is plainly, evidently, and always the case, prior to the unfolding of the drama of the so-called “real world”, but so close that like the pair of glasses you forgot you were wearing, it’s virtually never noticed. And yet, is it quite literally all that ever appears.
At any time, you can check this for yourself. Before being hypnotized, captivated, and convinced by the content of the appearance, investigate the nature of the appearance itself, without prejudice, and with absolutely unrelenting honesty.
There is nothing here to agree or disagree with. There is nothing to believe. And there is nothing you need to remember.
It’s too late for any of that. It’s already here.
The mind-created world is like a story printed in a book. Full of nouns, verbs, action, suspense — the entirety of human drama.
From birth, virtually all of us are taught that the words in this book describe the totality of the truth, reality itself, and we are taught that we are individual characters in this book, and the story written for ourselves is ultimately real, and of ultimate primacy.
What is much more rarely taught, and so remarkably easy to miss, are the pages on which the book is written — the shimmering, immediate, eternal canvas of consciousness in which all of the drama appears.
When this is seen, when primacy shifts from the words on the page to the page on which the words are written, the entire story is seen to be even less substantial than the ink with which the story was inscribed.