on its very first day of publication. It has been the #1 Hot New Release in that
category since the second day of its release. (updated 4.29.13)]
This book has arisen from Direct Pointing sessions that I’ve had with clients around the world. These deceptively simple inquiries and dialogues work. Men and women who have studied Nonduality for decades, both in and out of structured traditions, without experiencing even the first authentic glimpse of themselves have come to recognize their true nature during these talks. Some of them have been glimpses, and others remain ongoing. Still others, who were confounded by oscillation when we began to talk, have moved from there into stable Nondual awareness. And of course there are a few people who’ve reported no change at all; such is the way of it.
I will be using the term “awakening,” but we should be clear that this is simply languaging to speak about a topic that is extremely difficult–impossible, actually–to communicate. Silence is really the best medium for this message, but a blank book is unlikely to be very helpful, so we’ll plow on ahead using the best words that we can find. The core of all Nondual teachings is the experiential discovery of our shared true nature. We could further say that just beyond the core of Nonduality lies an incredibly sharp and skillful vocabulary, which grows sharper daily as more and more teachers emerge, and the teachers we have grow in experience.
Every teacher represents a unique set of hard and soft conditioning (nature and nurture), and thus each views the singular landscape in a slightly or radically different way. So too will their experience, understandings, and presentations be distinct. While this can cause some element of confusion, particularly early on, it also births a wonderfully diverse set of approaches. We need all we can get, because it is the languaging of the teacher that is most widely and easily communicated, and therefore most apt to lead us from that place just beyond the heart, and into the heart itself.
It is the peculiar nature of Nondual teachings that we can only hear who and what we can hear. We could fill a stadium with awake beings, yet you or I might only be able to really resonate with a few of them. This doesn’t mean the rest of these folks are wrong or deluded, it simply means they’resomeone else’s teachers. If we are sincere in our own approach to the teachings, we may be sure that we will find a teacher or teaching that we will resonate with perfectly. We can’t fail to; that’s just how it works.
This teaching, my teaching, so to speak, starts from a position that is not new, yet which remains fairly radical. I presume that clients don’t need to wake up, because they are always already awake. Awakeness is not something you experience, it’s what you are. By the same token, I presume that there’s no need for you to come out of oscillation and into stability, because you are always already still. Stillness is not something you experience, once again it’s what you are. Having understood the absolute truth of these things, we then embrace the relative nature of them. In other words, knowing all of this, I then go about the business of waking people up, or pulling them out of oscillation! It’s just one of many paradoxes we’ll encounter. If you’ve no stomach for paradox, you won’t stay with Nonduality very long.
Here’s another paradox right away. While making no suggestion whatsoever that there is any independent entity either writing this book, reading this book, or doing anything else, I notice that there are nonetheless lots of seemingly independent human units running around this planet, even if the planet itself and everything on it are merely apparent objects. Our experience of these things is as real as anything else, so we can’t just blow them off with some sort of high-minded philosophy. Thus in the same way we would reach for a hammer to pound a nail for the sake of the larger purpose of building a house, we’re going to use these human tools to help us, at least in viewpoint, move beyondthem. So go ahead and catalog the observation that when I speak about you, or me, or anyone else, I am making a relative reference as opposed to absolute statement. This kind of initial set-up may seem silly at first, but in truth it sets the tone for what is to come.
I began doing spontaneous Nondual inquiry with others locally here in South Carolina in the autumn of 2010. It wasn’t a plan. I had no idea it was even going to happen until it started happening. To my astonishment, a couple of people who’d never so much as heard the word “Nonduality” quickly and easily came to recognize their true nature. My wife, whose awakening preceded my own, came to a much deeper understanding as she and I talked casually. Something about my message was growing sharper, because I’d been talking to all of these people for years without this sort of pronounced acceleration. These were people for whom I’d been something of a spiritual mentor for quite some time, so they all trusted me implicitly, which helped a lot. There was no skepticism on anyone’s part, and no fear of either failure or success, just an innocent openness; a full willingness to see where our conversations led. This is the most fertile spiritual ground, so we all got lucky, so to speak.
These early successes gave me a great deal of confidence in myself as a teacher. Ultimately, having people awaken either in our presence, or as the (apparent) direct result of our teaching, is the only telling vote that counts concerning the combination of our voice’s authenticity, and our ability to effectively communicate the teaching, meaning to competently point toward that which we all are. Positive results are the only acceptable measurement. Good looks, charm, and charisma may be magnetic, but in and of themselves they’re not freeing. How about that waking up thing? Is that happening, or not? As students of this path, we have to decide what we really want, and pick a teacher accordingly. Not that we can’t have more than one teacher, but my point is made.
In the summer of 2011 I started the Awakening Clarity website. That began to bring my still-uneven teaching to the attention of a broader audience. Others visited me in person–and lo and behold, most of them woke up. I never knew who was more amazed, me or them. Every time was as fresh for me as it was them. It’s still that way. Each time someone I’m talking to wakes up, I somehow get a little clearer too, and a little more confident in my approach. This teaching is constantly evolving. This work excites me like nothing else I do, or have ever done.
A pattern of inquiry began to emerge; a method of teaching began to take shape. I starting trying new things–really I should say that they started on their own–and then I hogged the credit! But I wanted to stretch and find out what worked most consistently–that was the only criteria. Every client is different, and every day is different. Yesterday’s perfect presentation may fall on deaf ears today–even with the same person. Not only do we never step in the same river twice, but the us that is doing the stepping is no more constant an entity than the river. We look constant, but in fact these bodies are always changing, and we adapt our story about that body to match the already extant conditions.
I live in South Carolina, which is not noted for being a particularly progressive place. I am chiefly regarded as a fool by people who used to be my friends. Okay. At any rate, I soon ran out of local victims, but it wasn’t long before Skype allowed me to easily go global, which still amazes me. It’ssuch a wonderful tool for our community! I experienced immediate success. Not every time with every person, of course, but consistently. Right from go I had more hits than misses. My approach now had that solid consistency that I’d been after all along.
In line with all of that, in the summer of 2012, a year after the start of the website, I wrote my first book, Beyond Recovery: Non-Duality and the Twelve Steps, which was published by the good folks at Non-Duality Press. That book was designed to be a bridge book that introduces this Nondual path in a structured format for people who may have little background in this field. It addresses people who are in, or have gone through recovery, which is a well trodden path toward finding these teachings. I should add, however, that it’s been read by a good many folks who have no connection whatsoever to recovery, and they report they got a lot out of it. I’ve since had successful Direct Pointing sessions with a number of them.
I recorded some of the inquiries I’d been using in that book, along with some I’d been using privately for my own illumination. These organic inquiries represent the very heart of the experiential aspect of my teaching. The roots of some of them are again featured here, though there have certainly been changes to how I see them, and how I use them. In the last few year they’ve been spontaneously honed in the heat of many one-on-one meetings with a wide range of people from vastly different cultures.
I repeat a couple of stories I told in that earlier book here, so readers of that volume will have to bear with me. I often share different aspects of my past or current experience to either drive home a salient point, or to simply share my humanity with an empathetic story. It helps to keep me off the teacher pedestal–whether established in an egoic movement by me, or perhaps by my clients. Anyway, my story is my story, and I’m afraid it can’t change it in order to be more entertaining. I will confess, however, that there were a great many years where I did just that! I made my history a custom menu aimed at garnering approval. Not anymore.
The bulk of this book is structured as if it is a live Direct Pointing session, as if it is a transcript of an actual conversation I’ve had on Skype. In fact it’s a composite I’ve formulated to try and make the awkward transition from intimate, spontaneous spoken dialogue that would have benefit of both voice modulation and body language to the flat printed page as smooth as possible. I have had people wake up within just a very few minutes of beginning a session, and others who took well over an hour. The example I’m using here is of someone who’s receiving the teaching at a deep level, and coming to the Understanding pretty quickly. You’re already intimately familiar with what blocks us, so my idea is to show the other side.
It’s written in that this client comes to see the truth several times before they see it for more than a few seconds. That happens frequently, and clients will drift in and out of clarity during a session. Not always, but often. And it makes sense to use that movement as a literary device here, because it allows me to use more pointers in the dialogue. It will also illuminate places where people tend to have breakthroughs. With a little luck the reader may have one of their own.
There is a big bang awakening for some, and not for others. Big bangs are the exception, not the rule, which is why we tend to find them more often in books than we do in our lives. In this book we’re going with a series of small bangs. Notice, however, that this apparently gradual process is really a series of sudden breakthroughs. Here they are stretched out over a Direct Pointing session; call it 90 minutes. In life they may be stretched out over weeks, or months, or even years. Embodiment is certainly going to take years. The Understanding almost always becomes clear and stable in this graduated manner. Even Ramana Maharshi took years to assimilate clarity before he began to speak and teach. Another device, for the sake of smoother dialogue flow, I’m giving the client the rather androgynous name of Brook.
Very often people will want to talk to me at least a second time, and I have some clients I talk to every month. I call these follow-up meetings Clarity Sessions. A lot of what happens in those meetings is that I will help clients again come to present clarity, help them revisit and reestablish their beachhead in reality. Sometimes that happens just by chatting. Please recall that my descriptions here and elsewhere are languaging about something that can’t be put into words. I present here two variations on Clarity Sessions, one longer and one shorter, but each one of those meetings in real life is completely unique, and unlike the Direct Pointing sessions, which have an underlying structure.
Some clients will snap right back into cloudiness shortly after their Direct Pointing session–in an hour, a day, a week. By the same token, some don’t. Awakeness does what it does, as it does it, when it does it, for its own ends. I don’t understand it either. Regardless of how it plays out after a session, even if the client were to completely forget that time of clarity– the latent conscious awakeness we all harbor now knows what it is, and it knows it’s awake.
While Nondual awakening leaves a mark that can never be completely unseen, apparent clouds can, and in most cases does return to provide a thicker or thinner cover over the ever-shining brightness behind it. But if you have ever had a good glimpse, then awareness has stirred, and things are just not the same after such an event, regardless of the amount of cloud cover. The Gateless Gate may need to be breached again–I remind you that this only languaging the incommunicable–but that tends to get easier and easier as we go. The more often we reach to touch the light, the more often wecan touch it, and the longer the light stays on.
Sometimes clients and I might spend a Clarity Session just going over questions that have arisen from the new seeing, the return of the old. A fundamental shift may have taken place. It may have been quiet, as yet not be fully realized, and we don’t always know how to adjust to it. How would we? We can’t know what we don’t know, and we don’t know squat about clarity until we’re struck with it. But I don’t mean the big, general, cosmic questions, which typically arise from the unending and yammering bucket of ego, but rather the small, client-specific questions on how best to remain clear, and how to function as clarity. The idea is to always bring ourselves to a present understanding. Present understanding is all that matters.
When we have present understanding, we will be more likely to function from truth instead of delusional separation. This clearer functioning is what enlightenment is where the rubber meets the road in spirituality. We can’t really know the Singularity until we’re living as the Singularity. Even then clarity continues to work us. For example, after I rather accidentally started Awakening Clarity I almost instantaneously got a huge wave of energy. My body and mind were ill prepared for that, and it nearly drove me–and others around me–crazy for the next six months, as I worked night and day trying to keep my ordinary life afloat while constantly updating, and upgrading the object of almost all my attention and energy during that time: the then-quite-modestly read, yet somehow still precious beyond logic, new website. Somehow, out of all that madness, a website arose which thousands of people in over a hundred countries visit every week.
A similar thing happened when I began the task of writing Beyond Recovery. That book was written, from first word to final draft, in four months. I lived, ate, and slept it. The Book of Undoing,which is rather shorter, was written over a three week period of total absorbtion. I, Fredness, haven’t done any of this. It’s been done to me and through me, I assure you. I have merely had the willingness to allow it to rule without much dissent, and even that willingness came from IT. But make no mistake about it, as paradoxical as this is, our conscious willingness is vital to both awakening and embodiment.
I’m in no way suggesting one needs to write about any of this or teach others in order to live clearly. When I woke up I thought it was what one did, like leaving grad school and applying for a professorship. A lot of people think that way, and it’s just not true. Most people will not do either. No function is inherently higher or lower than the next. Equality is the fact; levels of importance are empty beliefs to be seen through. Don’t put teachers on a pedestal, and stay off of them yourself if you want to apparently progress. We need all functions until we don’t, even the ugly and unpleasant ones. How do we know? We have them.
Let us be clear from the outset that What Is rules. Anything opposing What Is can only be of the imagination–pure fantasy. These debilitating flights of fancy, which bear only suffering, are what we might call what isn’t. Frankly, this is where the great majority, very nearly the entirety of humankind spends almost all of their time. They live in their heads instead of their lives. This is it;there are no alternatives to what already is, and there’s nothing to be gained in resisting that fact.
If you’re going to get the full benefit that this book offers, it’s important that you answer my questions along with Brook, our bright and friendly composite client. My experience with clients, by the way, has overall been absolutely fabulous. Most of those who are open and humble enough to contact a less than famous living teacher are close to the end of the line before they ever talk to me. That’s the truth of why this teaching has been so successful: client quality. You do the work, and I get the credit. Go figure.
Live sessions are always completely spontaneous. They usually have a common beginning, but from there it grows on its own. I never know where I’m headed next, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going to prove most effective, or if and when the client is going to reach the Understanding. In a live session, there is typically a defining moment, which I never see coming, and often don’t even know is taking place until I find myself in the middle of it, when I am instinctively directed to go for the jugular, so to speak. I had one yesterday where such a moment had already taken place, and the client had to stop me and say, “Wait, wait! I got it five minutes ago and I’m still back there! Look at that with me!” And we did. The point being that awakening can be so subtle, and the client so pleasantly and thoroughly dumbstruck, that even I can miss it, and I’m right there diligently watching and talking.
I sometimes compare the Direct Pointing process to snake charming. The client is the flute player, and I’m the snake. It’s obvious to me that I’m being directed from the outside. I wouldn’t have a clue about how to do any of this, I really wouldn’t. So neither I, nor the client knows what’s going to happen until it happens! The conversation moves back and forth, like the charmer’s flute, with both of us being led this way and that from our joint inquiry. At some point there’s usually a change-up in the rhythm. The client may reach a peak of sharpness first, or may have slipped into a place of dullness. Either way, at some mysterious, but defining moment it is seen that there is an opening. It isn’t seen by me. Some question, or perhaps some answer, has opened an invisible door that neither I, nor the client generally see.
From there, things will happen fast. IT causes me to strike. I hit with a question, quite as surprised as the client by the meeting’s quick change-up in flow and direction. And with that, bam!realization occurs. It leaves me delighted, but usually rather dazed as well. How did that happen? Very often the client will ask, “How did you do that?” The answer, if I tell the truth, is always that Ididn’t. As ever, it just happened. No one really knows how; no one really knows why. It did. That’s What Is. And that’s all that matters.
Other times recognition sneaks up quietly on both of us. On those occasions, I can usually see it slowly coming over the client, and I’ll direct the conversation to meet it, as a certain smile arises as the Understanding begins to dawn on them. I know that smile very well! I know who it is that’s smiling, and it isn’t the client. IT is beginning to see its self-constructed little-man-behind-the-curtain pretending to be the Wizard of Oz, or in this case, pretending to be Brook. It’s all smoke and mirrors, every bit of it.
Recognition can and does happen any way it wants to, but in these sessions, these two ways I’ve just described are by far the most common, and the sudden is the most prevalent. In the second, slower example, let me point out that I’ve more than once seen people walk to the very edge of recognition, and then completely turn away from it–absolutely shut it down. Fortunately, it’s not particularly common, but it certainly occurs.
It can be that what’s happening doesn’t match their expectations, and they’re afraid of “settling.” These folks are usually unconsciously holding out for a more grand, spiritual experience–they want the bliss and the story, by God, and they’re not going to wake up until they get them! And so they don’t wake up. Or perhaps they’re simply consciously or unconsciously frightened. Fear is common. Either way, they turn from the Understanding in lieu of something larger, or something safer. They can’t turn from it forever, but they can hold out for a very long while.
Still others are afraid of appearing foolish, afraid of being taken in by what I freely confess appears to be a rather ridiculous process. If it’s this easy, how come not everyone’s doing it? Because they aren’t called to do it.
I’m not making a call, I’m helping people answer their own calls. Just be aware that skepticism is death to this process. Openness and full cooperation are almost always a mandate–there are exceptions–if you want to wake up. I can’t make anything happen, not on my own; no way. All I can do is walk you down a thorny path and hope you get pricked! Happily, most people do.
Given that this book is set up like a series of mock meetings, if it’s at all feasible, read chapters two, three, and four in a single sitting. Then handle the two Clarity Sessions in the same way if you can, in a single reading for each one. For those of you with the time and mental stamina, let me give you my full blessing to read the whole book in one sitting! None of this is critical, but for those who are drawn to try it that way, it might prove to be helpful. Don’t worry, you can’t do it wrong. However you read it is precisely the way you are meant to read it. How do we know? That’s what happened, and What Is rules.
There’s very little deep theory here. Certainly some does come up, especially in the Clarity Sessions, but most of this book will merely be simple inquiry and observation, with a little additional dialogue and commentary for the sake of clarification, or grounding. It should read reasonably quickly and easily for those already familiar with Nondual concepts. Even that is not crucial. If this is your first Nondual-type book ever, welcome aboard; you’ll do just fine. I have no doubt that this book has the power to at least move your dial.
The Book of Undoing is not written just for your head; it is written for your whole being. Get the body involved; feel what it has to offer; listen to what it has to say. It can’t be that difficult to follow, because I’ve seen a bunch of plain old folks just like you and me grab it quickly–and come to recognize themselves in the process.
Read with the most attention you can muster. If you find your attention wavering too much, put the book down for a moment until you regain focus. Think of it as guided meditation. This is veryprecise work. What I mean by that is that the little stuff counts. If I’m saying something that’s throwing you a bit, sit with that until, hopefully, you get a better feel for what it is that I’m trying to convey. Again, everything in this book is tried and true. This is not armchair spirituality; this is from the front lines.
Everything here is also present moment work. If something strikes you as you’re reading, STOP. Let it strike you fully. Let it settle in. Fully be with whatever your involved reading produces. Try your best not to rush ahead if it begins to capture you. Don’t do any forward peeking. Patience is a very much a virtue here.
A high percentage of the people I have had Direct Pointing sessions with have come to recognize their always-already-present-and-awake true nature. While there clearly remains a distinct advantage to having someone lead you through this kind of inquiry and investigation, this overall approach has certainly been affirmed as a powerful spiritual tool. It is a proven and polished means of self discovery, and just this text by itself should prove to be quite helpful for most readers, and even catalytic for some of you. For all I know, I’m writing myself out of a job! If so, so be it; I’ll be shown another function. I’m not married to this one. Also, I’ve discovered that when I push myself to the limits of what I know, and teach that without fear of giving up the goose that laid the golden egg, then what I know suddenly expands. I wish you well. I really, really do.
In the back of this book I’ve reprinted the most popular post I’ve ever written for Awakening Clarity, The Looking Glass: Language as Mirror. It’s another tool for awakening. With some help fromNondual Highlights, Meeting Truth, many thousands of people flocked to the site. Once in a while, if you write enough, you hit the sweet spot. That piece is a call to Home from Home. I’ve gotten a lot of positive mail about it from readers, and I hope you’ll get something from it as well. It’s a good study for those who not yet had a so-called awakening, and it’s a good retouch for those who have.
Understand, there’s nothing wrong with being cloudy. Don’t feel like you should be other than the way you are. You should be just like you are–until you’re not. We need cloudy people. How do we know? We have them. But in all likelihood, on the still-important relative level, our beleaguered planet probably won’t be able stand many more generations of cloudy leadership and still maintain enough balance to support much in the way of life. As I see it, the most important thing we can ever do for ourselves, and the well being of our planet, is to wake up en masse. But that en masse happens one person at a time. Save yourself, and the world will take care of itself.
Not everyone needs to wake up in order for a new wisdom to prevail. I invite you to do sonow. Don’t even wait to finish the rest of this book. Wait for nothing. Just STOP. Stop becoming for just a second, and just be. What is it that thinks it should somehow be more awake?
Make no mistake, that bodymind, from which I deliberately strip away all glamour by referring to it as a unit, is interested in Nonduality because it’s been called to the Understanding by Life itself. This is not about that ego you’re using, no matter how it might feel. This is about You.
If you’re interested to learn more in the philosophy that spawned these teachings, you might want to read Beyond Recovery. Present or former addiction is not required. It’s a structural teaching with some practices thrown in, whereas this book is almost entirely experiential. Some people who are not associated with recovery have written to say the structure was helpful.
I call this little volume The Book of Undoing, because this is exactly our task, to undo. We don’t need to accomplish anything more; we don’t need further doing. What’s necessary is that we see through what we’ve already done. With the aid and support of a world that is chock full of well meaning, but deluded accomplices, we have piled layer after layer of beliefs, opinions and positions–what I refer to as BOPs–on top of the beautiful, living, pulsing ground of reality. This leaves us with a set of presumptions that are paralyzing to authentic spiritual growth. It’s like we have gathered all of our stuff from scores of lifetimes, and dumped it onto the Garden of Eden. We have flattened it. Like Joni Mitchell said, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” In this case, however, the they isus. It’s now time for us to undo that paving. How do we know? Because that’s what’s happening.
I wish you well in your exploration here. We are the very same no-thing, and I love to pretend to wake up. Happy undoing to you!
click here, and scroll down to the testimonials at the bottom.
Many of you will recognize one of the writers.
Also, an enthusiastic thanks to another friend-across-the-pond, Dennis Waite, for kindly running an excerpt on the largest Advaita site out there, Advaita Vision. Dennis is another one of the Grandfathers of Nonduality on the Internet. Dennis, Jerry, and Greg Goode are chiefly responsible for establishing a Nondual e-presence. We owe them all a lot.
Heartfelt gratitude to those who helped proof and edit TBOU prior to sending it in for printing,Betsy Hackett-Davis, Paul McGillviray, and a favorite son of Vermont, Will Wright. The Kindle version will be updated to address typos, and with any luck, very soon neither version will have any at all! Thank you, my dear friends!
When You’re Taking All This Too Seriously