Richard Lang is the dearest, most cheerful man I know, and I am absolutely delighted to have him with us this week in the fifth installment of the Guest Teaching Series. There’s been a tremendous response to this series and thus it will surely continue until it doesn’t. I have guests signed up through the end of April, so we can all count on a lot of great teaching coming our way. I very much appreciate Richard putting this article together especially for Awakening Clarity. It is the opportunity for you to move beyond theory and into Being.
I’ve been on the Nondual path for thirty years, which seems like a very long time indeed. At least it does until I realize that Richard has been teaching for over forty! The Headless Way has been at the center of Richard’s life since 1970, when he and his brother took a train from Yorkshire to London in order to attend The London Buddhist Society’s summer school. While there, seventeen year-old Richard attended a seminar by a different sort of philosopher and spiritual teacher, a man named Douglas Harding. That single seminar would change his life forever. Harding had developed an experiential, indeed we could even say scientific methodology for introducing you to your very own True Self. I’ll leave it to Richard to explain all of that.
My Amazon history tells me that I first read Douglas’ most famous book, On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, back in the autumn of 2003. I didn’t completely get it,but this notion of headlessness really left a deep impression. I sort of half got it. At the time I was still completely harnessed to this body, and was loathe to give that identification up, although I wasn’t aware of the depth of that attachment. I remember there was a reliable Japanese reviewer on Amazon called Tepi who raved about the book and declared that this was how he/she, Tepi, came to see his/her True Self. I was quite jealous! I’d read enough comments and reviews to trust that this thing was for real, but I couldn’t quite make the leap. Timing comes into play even within the structure of science. I can look through a telescope all night long, but if the lunar eclipse isn’t to occur until the next night, I’ll still come up empty handed. Yet that simple backward-pointing finger, as shown below, left an indelible print in my mind and I would use it hauntingly for the next decade, throughout the seeking and awakening process–however merely apparent that process might have been!
Two or three years ago, when I was still the victim of “oscillation”, as Scott Kiloby aptly dubs it, I signed up for Richard’s free email course, available from his website, and which I recommend with all my heart and soul. (Oscillation is the apparent movement between being consciousawareness and being unconscious awareness. It’s a hypothetical movement, but it sure feels real until it doesn’t.) I credit the combination of Scott Kiloby’s deft telephone inquiry and Richard Lang’s course, which he generously augmented with supportive personal emails, with helping to bring me into (essentially) stable realization. It’s interesting to note that both of those teachers took me out of theory and into an experiential process. I’ve been out ever since!
I realize I’m putting daggers into the hearts of some of you with my use of language here regarding such things as a realization ‘event’, ‘process’ and ‘time’, but as Rupert Spira says, “We use language provisionally in order to move beyond it.” If I want to hold true to Truth, I’ll have to leave the page blank. That would be far truer than anything I can put onto a blank page, but it wouldn’t be especially helpful–or entertaining. Perhaps the best thing about Richard’s headlessness instruction is that it’s always great fun!
In this article, Richard Lang introduces you to The Headless Way – a Way of Seeing Who You Really Are. Richard has led hundreds of workshops internationally, has written two books, made a CD and many videos (available on YouTube), and is responsible for the content of headless.org. He is part of a world-wide circle of friends who value The Headless Way. I’ll have helpful links at the end so that you can easily venture further into headlessness.
The Headless Way
I CANNOT SEE MY HEAD. Aware of my head’s Absence here, I am seeing Who I really am. I believe you cannot see your head either. However, you must speak for yourself. This is a principle of The Headless Way – you are the sole and final authority on Who you are. Why? Because only you are where you are. Everyone else is distant and therefore in no position to say Who you are at zero distance. (On the other hand, they are well-placed to say who you are from a distance – in fact, they are better-placed than you.)
At the heart of The Headless Way are the experiments. These invite you to exercise your authority and look for yourself at Who you are. A Greek friend, after about ten years of seeking, was feeling depressed because he had not yet found what he was looking for – truth, freedom, peace… He declared to his girlfriend: “I’m going to surf the internet and I’m not going to stop until I’ve found what I’m looking for.” After a short while he stumbled upon The Headless Way website, did the Pointing Experiment and found what he had been searching for – his own boundless Self. The One he was looking for was the One who was looking. He called his girlfriend over to the computer and she did the Pointing Experiment too. They could hardly believe it could be so simple – point at where others see your face and SEE WHAT YOU SEE, not what you are told to see. No face here but Space for the world. They contacted me a few months later and told me they had laughed and laughed for an hour and a half!
This story is not unusual. The Headless Way experiments are a breakthrough. They bypass words and point directly, non-verbally, at your True Nature – your Original Face as Zen describes it. Look at another person and see that the set-up is face there to no-face here. Riding in a car, see that you are still whilst the world moves.
There are many Headless Way experiments (see our website). Each approaches You from a different angle and reveals a different aspect of Seeing. But the Central Point they lead to is always the same – this Openness that is capacity for all. If a particular experiment means nothing to you, don’t worry. Simply do another one. If only one of the experiments awakens you to this headless Capacity, that is enough. Once Home by any one of the experiments – by any one of these fast-track Homeward-bound vehicles – from that moment you have instant access whenever you choose. The key is now at your fingertips. Or rather, the key is your finger when it’s pointing back at the place you are looking out of.
When we awaken to Who we really are, we discover that the One is kind – it has made itself supremely obvious and available. Whenever we look for it, it is here, welcoming us with arms wide-open. Of course, we have to know where to look – but now we do.
THE EXPERIENCE AND THE MEANING
“So what?” you might respond. “The fact I cannot see my head means nothing to me.”
On the other hand you might reply: “My goodness, I have no head! I am not a thing here at my centre. I’m looking out of a boundless single Eye. All is within me!”
None of us can see our own heads, but whether this means something varies from person to person. In other words, there’s a distinction between the experience of Who we are and the meaning we attach to it. The experience is available at all times and is the same for everyone – you can never see your own face, never see your own eyes. (Of course you can see them in a mirror.) Instead of looking out of two eyes, I am looking out of one Eye – an Eye that is forever open, forever clear, forever boundless. In contrast, the meaning I find in this Eye is always changing. What I felt yesterday I no longer feel today. And what it means to me is unique to me – no one else responds exactly as I do. If I am in a workshop and someone else has a strong, positive response, full of feeling and insight, but I don’t, it’s easy to assume that that person has ‘got it’ and I don’t. But the fact that I’m not having the same reaction doesn’t mean I’m not Seeing. I am simply responding differently. (In fact, the only authority on whether you are Seeing or not is you.) See your No-Face, your Single Eye, and keep seeing it – seeing from it – and find out what it means to you. Discover what insights flow from this Awareness for you.
SELF AND OTHER
What a difference Seeing makes to personal relationships. Seeing I am face to no-face with you, I give you my attention – you are present here at no distance, here in this Awake Space, here in me. I am not at loggerheads with you, head to head, but am capacity for you, head to no-head. Empty, I vanish in your favour – I become you. This is not in fact a relationship between two people – there are not two here but One. Seeing this, I see not only Who I am but Who you are too. I don’t have to imagine your Single Eye hidden somewhere behind your two eyes and then wonder if it’s the same Eye as mine – I see the only Eye there is here,my side of your eyes, my side of your face. This Eye I am looking out of – is it separate from you? Is it mine more than yours? Is it located ‘here’ but not ‘there’? No. I find no name-tag on this One, no address, no boundary separating it from you or anyone. Here is only one Consciousness in which all are happening – you, me, all people, animals, stars, everything. Here I am you forever. Whatever I say or do to you, I say and do to myself.
Of course there is much about you that is hidden from me. I do not feel or think what you feel and think. I do not hear or see what you hear and see – I only know about your experience second-hand when you tell me. But – even when I disagree with you – I hear our two voices in this one Consciousness. I see our two bodies in this one Space. There, being two, we are in part hidden from one another, but here in this undivided Clarity all is transparent. This separateness and this unity are two sides of one coin. Both are indispensable. Aware of my two-sided identity when I am with you, I am the One listening and talking with another who is both myself and not myself.
If a problem appears in my life… Well, not if, but when! … When a problem appears, I may forget Who I am and respond as if I am Richard (and only Richard). When I do this I see myself as a victim, up against the world, confronting others face to face, not in control, lacking resources, my will often thwarted. It’s not surprising if I suffer. But if I then awaken to Who I am, I see that my suffering body and mind are happening in and emerging from this wonderful No-head and No-mind at my centre – this freedom and peace. Now I’m no longer a victim but the Source and Container of all things – astonishing Fact! Here within me, nearer to me than Richard, is the Wisdom and Power behind the world, the Intelligence that invents and creates spontaneously, without effort and without knowinghow, the Love that includes all. Seeing and being this Self-Originating miracle – this Deep and Merciful One – I am backed by the only true resource, the only real power. If I am gracious enough (or desperate enough) to say Yes to this One, to place my trust in it, it guides me. Being empty, I receive what I need – though it’s not usually what I think I need! As I continue seeing where my suffering is (there, not here), slowly or quickly my suffering dissolves.
BEING HUMAN AND DIVINE
In our lives we travel a long road. As babies and infants we are the headless One unaware of Who we really are. We are also the headless One unaware of being a special, headed somebody in the eyes of others. A friend’s young daughter brought home a photograph of her class. She named every child until she came to one: “I’ve never seen that child in my class!” Of course, she hadn’t – it was her! However, this unselfconscious freedom doesn’t last long. As we grow up we learn to identify with our appearance (and dismiss our native headless viewpoint as unreal or mad). We become profoundly convinced we are the headed one we see in the mirror, the one that others see when they look towards us. As a child I learn to imagine that face over there in the mirror to be here above my shoulders. (Imagine, not see.) Framing myself in this way, imagining what I look like from several metres through the eyes of others and imposing that regional appearance on this central Reality, I come to believe I am in my own experience a separate person, and assume others are in the same condition – for themselves headed, separate and mortal. Now I am no longer headlessly and timelessly Alone, the Centre of my world – as I was as a baby. Now, as an adult, I am ‘one amongst many’, a ‘cog in the machine’, here today and gone tomorrow. I am the One who has forgotten Who I am, the Prodigal Son lost in the Far Country, the Faceless One become a face in the crowd. Normally we assume this is the end of the story, that this must be as good as life gets. It seems growing up is about finding out who I am as a person and then doing the best with the cards I’ve been dealt. But this need not be the end of the story. Looking within and seeing my faceless Reality, I discover I’ve been dealt the highest card in the pack – a sure-fire winner! Taking this Vision seriously, accepting it, saying Yes to it at deeper and deeper levels, a new and exciting chapter of life begins unfolding – the chapter that makes sense of the whole story to date. Without this chapter I am like a rosebush that sprouts from the ground, grows stem and leaves and buds, but then fails to bloom. If I don’t see Who I am, I am not fulfilling my natural potential.
Sometimes people think that when you see Who you are, you will no longer identify with being a person. I do not find this. Of course, it depends what you mean by ‘identify with’. But, seeing I have no head now, am I oblivious to the fact that you see it? Of course not. Do I act in the world as if I don’t have a face? No. Realising I have neither name nor abode, have I now forgotten my name and address? I hope not. What does change, then? I see that my human identity is not central. My face and everything else are not here at my centre but ‘out there’ on my periphery – in mirrors, in photographs and videos and in others, just as others are here in me. Living in awareness that privately I am the One whilst publicly I am Richard, I live a two-sided life. I have the best of both worlds. I am like a king in disguise who is no longer fooled by his own mask. Though I appear outwardly as an ordinary citizen, I am aware of my inner regality. All is within me, all obeys my royal will. As a Sufi dervish once said (according to Rumi) when asked how he was:
“How should that one be, according to whose desire the work of the world goes on? According to whose desire the torrents and rivers flow, and the stars move in such wise as he wills; and Life and Death are his officers… No tooth flashes with laughter in the world without the approval of that imperial personage.”
But as soon as I forget to see, as soon as this Awareness goes out the window – as soon as I overlook this Open Window I am looking out of – I feel and think and act as if I am again a two-eyed victim. I have traded my fortune for a pittance. To align myself again with the truth, I must see again – I must see now, returning again to my Eternal Home, the Home I never really left. Yet even this rhythm of forgetting and remembering arises within the unchanging Self. Nothing has gone wrong. The person who never leaves home doesn’t really know home for he has nothing to compare it with. But the person who has travelled abroad and then returns, now sees home and all who live there with fresh eyes – and loves it, and them, all the more dearly.
What good fortune to awaken to Who we are. I would not disagree with you if, in spite of acknowledging all the suffering and evil in the world, you felt you had arrived in heaven – or rather, that heaven had arrived in you. We have stumbled upon a wonderful truth – the truth that makes the world go round, the truth that heals and guides and frees us, the truth that is Love.
A NEXT STEP
If you haven’t already done an experiment, I hope you do one – the Pointing Experiment for example. You will find it on our website. Don’t expect to have a ‘wow’ experience. Be prepared for something quiet or neutral. You may have a ‘wow’ experience of course, but be wise before the event and know that as with all things, it will pass. If you feel nothing, know that the truth is not always adorned. Do an experiment primarily to find out what is true rather than to feel good. If you have time, do several experiments – they don’t take long – and then read through some comments and feedback to see how others have responded. And if you value this Way and feel drawn to get in touch, please do. The One who appears as you will be contacting the One who appears as me! How wild is that!
To view or buy headless books,CDs, DVDs, e-books, downloadable audio books and workshops by Richard, Douglas Harding, or others on Headless.org:http://tinyurl.com/78olozm
To view or buy headless books on Amazon:http://tinyurl.com/6utkpmo Richard will be on tour in Europe and Australia in March and April, in Russia in May, and in North America in June. Go here to see dates and places on the pull-down calendar:http://tinyurl.com/7c3uplq
Just a note to remind subscribers and mobile views that there are three other pages beyond this main post page. I’ve upgraded the graphics on those pages this week and changed the organization a bit. It’s worth your coming to the home site when you feel drawn