Hello, everybody! It’s been six weeks or so since we’ve chatted, so along with reintroducing the Awakening Clarity Zen frogs for this post, I thought I’d catch you up on what’s been going on.What a six weeks it’s been!
First off, let me give a quick nod and a thank you to Michael McCaffrey, who’s a writer for Embraced by Life, a very active Nondual website based in England. He and I had a two hour Skype conversation last week that was great fun. He’s a very bright, and thoroughly charming guy who’s as clear as a gong strike. I suspect they’ll edit that down a bit before posting it, but we’ll have to wait and see. As always, we’ll get what we get! At any rate, you can expect to find a link to it just as soon as it goes up. Scott Kiloby and I are talking about having a similar conversation in June. I’ll keep you advised on that if it works out.
The Looking Glass: Language as Mirror (TLG) was published here six weeks ago, and it turned out to be a major, even transformative event, both for this website, and for some of our readers. It was a home run, so to speak. Links were emailed to friends, hung on ND message boards, and site traffic swelled by 35% as many thousands of people from around the world swarmed to read it. They are stillreading it. Day after day it is the leading post in terms of viewership.
I’ve gotten far more mail on it than any other post in Awakening Clarity’s history, and if my mail is any indicator, TLG is doing great work out in the world. I felt it was potentially important when it was coming together, and sure enough, it seems fated to become the most popular piece ever put up on AC. Big thanks to everyone who played a hand in making that post so visible.
The early response to The Looking Glass was what pushed me into overdrive to write and publishThe Book of Undoing. That volume, which presents cutting edge pointing straight from the field to the page, also carries a reprint of TLG, which is in the same vein. I put the rest of my life on hold, and went from staring at a blank page to publishing the first edition of the Kindle format of The Book of Undoing in three weeks flat. The words for that book almost literally fell out of my hands and onto the page. It is essentially a road map to my Direct Pointing work, and it hit with just the kind of splash I’d hoped for.
The Kindle e-book of The Book of Unknowing leaped into the Top Ten for Eastern philosophy the day after publication, and it’s either been anywhere from number five to number fifteen for the whole month since then. It’s number ten as I write this. The real importance of this success is that it shows me people are truly beginning to figure out the importance of what’s happening with this Direct Pointing I’ve been doing, and reporting on for all these many months. The percentage of people who are waking up in DP sessions continues to be staggering.
This teaching presents a simple, radical idea: why not start with awakening, and then work our way into greater clarity and stability? We’ve always moved from the other direction, working progressivelyup and toward enlightenment. I understand the case presented for that methodology, but it leaves a lot of bodies along the way, while a few lucky ones make it to the “finish line” and discover their true nature. This no longer makes any sense to me–at all. I think many people, probably most people involved in Nonduality, have moved beyond that model. So long as our attention remains fixed onwhat’s next, we’ll never stop running long enough to see what’s always already here.
This “enlightenment first” approach is the primary idea behind the Direct Path teachings, whose teaching and teachers have mightily influenced me. However, this precise stream owes very few specifics to any form of traditional Advaita, Taoism, Zen, or what have you. It uses no Sanskrit, has no fidelity to any given lineage, calls for no particular scriptures or other books, not even my own.
The Direct Pointing sessions, and the writing that’s come from them–here, in books, and elsewhere on the Net–have all taken form quite spontaneously while actively engaged in working with others. Granted, the whole notion of “enlightenment first” is 180 degrees from the way we’ve generally been taught through the ages. Interestingly enough, however, my experience as both a seeker and a teacher is that most major spiritual insights are also 180 degrees away from our “accepted truths”. I even havea video on that idea.
By approaching our spiritual journey in this turnabout manner, we will of course still encounter many of the typical challenges as we move toward more stability and greater clarity within awakeness, but we do so from a base place of knowing. The difference is enormous.\
So, that’s the news. Now, on to our new post…
SOLVING THE AWAKENING PUZZLE
As most of you know by now, I’m very big on saying things like, “The easiest way to wake up is to notice that you’re already awake.” Strange as it may seem, that’s a fundamental truth, it really is, but it’s not always helpful. I was on the enlightenment trail for a long, long time–decades–before I recognized my own always already awake condition, and I can well remember when such a comment was nothing short of maddening. So today we’re going to take a closer look at that statement, using some of my own story as an example. We’ll look more closely at what it points to, and see if we can find something that will be helpful, no matter where you appear to be in your journey.
Back in the day, my responses to hearing, “You’re already awake,” ranged from anger, as in, “Why in the hell would they tell me something so absurd as that?” to getting my feelings hurt, because I felt like people were somehow making fun of me and my dreadful awakelessness, to mentally accusing any author of that statement of being either a liar, or a fool. I felt stupid that I couldn’t see something so many said was obvious. Any of these reactions is a fair response for an ego to have, because it does indeed, on the surface of it, seem like such a patently ridiculous statement. And let’s do be honest: it ain’t obvious until it is! Until we see it, we can’t see it. Once we see it, we can’t not see it.
While I was busily registering anger and confusion, I was too caught up in that to ask, “Who are these teachers talking to when they say this?” This is the key to solving the awakening puzzle.
We think self-realization is all about us, and that’s just not the way things work. Since I believed there was a “me” housed in my body, and that what I was thinking and doing was controlled by this me, I naturally thought thoughts and deeds played a direct role in getting me through the Gateless Gate. Nope. Things don’t work like that, either. By using my own example, I can help the reader see how awakening can occur not just through the well-intentioned, good, wise, humble, and dedicated, but also through the poorly-intentioned, hollow, stupid, arrogant, and erratic, such as myself. Awakeness does what it does for its own reasons, and it plays no favorites. Thank goodness!
In 1982, when the thought first popped into my head that said, “You should study Zen,” it was clearlydirected at the human unit that was spending its afternoon drawing with crayons in the day room of a locked ward in a mental institution. It was directed toward me, meaning Fred, if you’ll pardon the expression. And it was a damn reasonable suggestion, given that the very same Fred unit had been in the very same room almost exactly one year before, and had apparently not learned enough between visits to keep itself out of that room.
So far so good.
The problem arose when I presumed that since the thought to study Zen had arisen in my head, that it was being presented for my approval and benefit–the “my” in this case meaning my ego. Nothing could be further from the truth. I saw it as a self-help type of suggestion by some higher functioning part of me, or perhaps some unknown mystical entity, but that either way was being made available for the physical survival, mental comfort, and spiritual advancement of Fred. However, although I considered myself to be both brilliant and astute–a real comer, so to speak, in the harsh light of day anyone other than myself could see that I could neither feed nor house myself, nor hang onto a job, relationship, or anything else of consequence. It was about all I could do to stay out of jail–most of the time.
The total absence of any evidence to support my lofty self-evaluation did not keep me from holding it. This is called denial. It went hand in hand with the fierce denial of the core cause of my hospitalization: addiction. I was, in essence, addicted to everything that had ever felt good. Chief among them were the substance of alcohol, and the state induced by compulsive gambling. Mix those two with chain smoking, and maybe a helpful amphetamine or two, and man oh man, you’ve really got something! I was a mess.
When I got out of the hospital, what I discovered was a Brand New Story. Now I could be Fred the Mystic. I would be able to dress up my clamoring desires in spiritual clothing, and hail my newly found superiority over the unwashed masses from an entirely new position! Enlightenment–or almost as important, having you believe I was enlightened–looked to be just the vehicle for a guy with my checkered past to catch a ride on, and then rise meteorically from the dead to compete again, and this time wear the crown of the chosen winner I thought myself to be. To heck with big money, I had Advanced Spirituality, and now chose to look down on that wealth which I secretly still craved. I also imagined that women would find my hot Zen self devastatingly sexy as well, which was a second big plus. Maybe I could even find a rich patron. Ah, the possibilities! I repeat: I was a mess.
Every motive I had was wrong. I was, in truth, a very sick guy. Yet from the absolute position, none of this mattered one iota. Flow was positioning the Fred unit–that body, that Fredness pattern that wecall Fred–right where it wanted it to be: onto the spiritual path. Flow didn’t give a tinker’s damn about what that unit’s mind was thinking. Flow knows a harmless crank when it hears one. It’s listening to 7,000,000,000 of them bemoan their conditions every day, so ignoring the unit I found special was all in a day’s work.
After I did some reading, I confess that even I, the dedicated fraud and hedonist, caught a flavor of something that sounded very, very alluring. Suddenly I really did want to wake up. A quite sizable part of me still wanted to wake up for the aforementioned shallow and selfish reasons, but a new spark got struck while I was investigating just what in the heck this realization thing might really be. Of course I had no clue whatsoever; no one ever does, but that didn’t stop the arising of a longing for it. We always want what we don’t have–until we wake up. Then we want to keep that so badly that we chase it away by our grasping for it.
First and foremost, enlightenment sounded like a way out. Most people that I talk to in private are looking for some variation of the same thing. They want out of suffering, out of the dream, out of delusion, out of their present life situation, or perhaps just out of the insane seeking cycle they find themselves so firmly caught up in. I hear there are people who are moving toward something with their seeking, who are willfully and valiantly moving toward truth for the pure sake of truth, and not away from anything, but I wasn’t one of them, and they must be exceedingly rare, because I’ve yet to meet one. Everybody I talk to wants out of suffering, just like I did.
In the end, from the absolute view, personal motivations simply don’t matter. They make no difference whatsoever. All of that is simply story, just the window dressing flow creates, probably to lower the unit’s resistance to doing what it’s already fated to do anyway: take the spiritual journey. Flow loves efficiency, but is equally happy to do things the hard way if it has to, even if that way may prove rather devastating to an individual unit. Whichever way it goes, we become, in essence, victims of grace. If our intention has been such that we are willing victims, then things will go more quickly, smoothly and comfortably for the unit involved, but they are going to go the way they go, and they will not long be turned, or ever be stopped.
Hopefully it is clear that I am not suggesting this is any kind of decision making process by some sort of divine entity. No, no, no. I’m just reporting on the mechanism. My mind, any mind, is completelyincapable of grasping how this all happens. I’m just saying that it does happen. I don’t need to understand electricity to report on what a light switch does. Same thing here.
Witness that flow started out with a unit that had zero genuine interest in spirituality, and had nothing even resembling humility, integrity, honesty, or tenacity. Yet flow began, with what we might call infinite patience–it’s not hard to attribute some measure of hilarity as well–to bring the unit’s rebellious mind into alliance with its already compliant body. It began the process of waking me down,out of my head, and down into my body, which had always been fine, because it is incapable of registering an opinion otherwise. Flow is what drives a petunia through a crack in the sidewalk, impels a bat to grow larger ears, and waits out a red sun that is collapsing over the period of a billion years. Dealing with something no more complicated than an idiot is no real challenge.
My case was an extreme one, and that, plus my own familiarity with the tale, are what make it such a good example for illustration. The first time around, I was full-on into spirituality for about eighteen months. Then I fell into a promising business opportunity and dropped sainthood like a hot rock. I moved in and out of spirituality for the next few years–mostly out–because a human can completely abandon itself to only a single master at a time, and I had an old one made new again: money. I made enough of that over the next few years to help me come to believe that I was altogether bulletproof, so I started drinking and gambling again. In fairly short order I cleverly drank and gambled my way right out of prosperity and back into my default position of poverty. When I hit bottom from that dive, guess what suddenly looked appealing again? That’s right, Zen and the enlightenment card. Does this begin to look like a pattern to you? It does to me, too. Humans are all about patterns, whether they work, or they don’t work.
I was not gently moved onto the spiritual path either initially, or that second time around. In fact, in my entire history, I was never quietly or softly positioned, because without the presence of a desperate, hair-on-fire crisis, it was impossible for me to be open to any idea beyond my own puny thoughts. Subtlety didn’t work with me. So in my case, “positioning” was more like being thrown from a speeding airliner without a parachute. Each time I briefly struggled futilely, and I each time I landed with a loud splat.
During that next foray into Zen I went the full course, at least for a solo adventurer. I meditated alot. I read constantly. I discovered self-inquiry and drove myself absolutely crazy with it. Amazingly enough, half of the time I was actually sincere. And by golly, I got a glimpse of my true nature; I surely did. Yet hot on the heels of that cosmic seeing, before the glow had even passed, I returned to caretaking my addictions, and I stayed at that task for another nine years. I was permanentlyimprinted by that first amazing glimpse, trust me on that, but I still had a lot of seeking to do, which is what my addictions were: seeking mechanisms. It was still all about me.
Notice, however, that regardless of my addictions, or the unit’s beliefs, opinions, and positions, it had nonetheless been positioned to acquire a hell of a lot of context. Context is absolutely invaluable once we awaken. I liken it to snow falling on a tree instead of bare ground. The snow doesn’t need the tree, but because of that context it can have a much richer experience of itself.
In early 2000, the fragile charade of my life began to crack again, and I once again found myself attracted to–that’s right, my old fallback, compulsive spirituality. I got sober, I moved back into practicing Zen, I discovered Eckhart Tolle, which led to other Nondual authors–and then I started another business. If I was still a betting man–which I most certainly am not–I would bet you dimes to donuts that I would have dumped spirituality again within that very month, because I suddenly hadoptions. Whenever I had a promising option, spirituality always came in second, meaning last.
But flow was running out of patience. In Twelve Step recovery they tell you that you have to make your amends for all the things you’ve done wrong, but they don’t say anything about them having to be accepted. Some folks to whom I had delivered a real live, heart-felt apology decided that an apology simply wasn’t good enough. They arranged to have a couple of policemen drop by my house early one sunny morning, and cart me off to jail.
Boy, did that spiritual thing ever look good again! Perhaps I could do both the new business–which I would need to flog for legal fees–and simultaneously pursue spirituality? Did people actually live like that? Two balls in the air at the same time? Who knew? Previously I couldn’t have found balance in a dictionary. Now I was being forced into some semblance of it, because without money I couldn’t support or defend myself, and without spirituality I would have gone over-the-top, never-get-out, locked-ward crazy-crazy.
For two and a half years, from the day of my arrest until the day of my hearing, I ate, drank, and slept spiritual teachings while I pumped up my fledgling business. I listened to Eckhart’s soothing baritone twelve to sixteen hours a day for months–upstairs, downstairs, and in my car. I needed that calm overlay to keep the voice in my head from driving me nuts. After my hearing, where I properly pled guilty, I went into total despair. Already living quite modestly, I had been dealt a terrible financial blow. My physical freedom was greatly constrained. And of course there was that nagging little element called humiliation. Six weeks after the trial, in a dark hole of depression, wanting to die, but forced by loving promise to continue living, on one bright morning while sitting in my living room, I came to recognize my true nature.
Funny how that works.
Flow had done its job. Despite this unit’s errant path and aberrant thinking, an ugly duckling had been miraculously turned into a swan; a lotus had risen from the mud. I confess that though I had tried and tried to storm the Gateless Gate, I never really thought it would actually happen. And prior to the moment of that awakening, I wasn’t even totally confident that there was such a thing as awakening. I’d been a hopeful faker; maybe everybody else was, too. Our personal worlds have precious little to do with facts. They are built entirely of our personalized beliefs, opinion, and positions–BOPs.
When someone says, “You are already awake,” they aren’t talking about “little you.” They are talking about “Big You.” Little you is not only not awake, it is incapable of being awake. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. Anywhere. The one who wants to wake up will never wake up. My ego never woke up, and neither will yours. That’s why I say awakening happened through me rather than to me. It is, in fact, Livingness itself that wakes up. It wakes up from the dream that it is a single unit exclusively,and sees that it contains all units of all kinds universally. There is nothing that is not you. You are every grain of sand, every thought anyone ever had about a grain of sand, and everything either man or nature ever built with a grain of sand.
All arisings, including the one reading this sentence right now, rise and fall within you, Big You. You, Big You, indeed, are awake. Always have been, always will be, can’t not be. There’s no need to wake you up, and no way to wake you up, since you’re already awake. All I can hope to do, is help you point back at that which is doing the pointing, and help you come to recognize your own, infinite, eternal, true nature. The puzzle is never solved, but rather it drops away after you, Big You, sees that it was never there to begin with.
Awakening is not about these units you’re wearing, as a tree wears snow. They can appear to impede or advance spiritual progress. But whence come the directions to cooperate or hinder? Those, too, come from Livingness, can’t not come from Livingness, because Livingness is all there is, and you–Big You–are It.
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Three Things You Need to Know in Order to Wake Up