Now is all that is happening - ever. We've heard it so many times that it's easy to dismiss and simply understand it at a superficial level. Instead, take a moment (or longer) and try to find your way into the Now as a felt experience and then stay here as long as possible. Watch closely to see what prevents you from staying present. It's a tricky game, the mind being what it is, so there must be a genuine earnestness to know yourself.
Surrender is letting go of any need to understand what's happening. Such a relief. And then you find yourself in a place just so peaceful and you don't care anymore about understanding anything. It's enough. Just to let go into peace. There's nothing we need to understand that's gonna give us the answer so we can finally relax, so we can finally let go. The thought is, if we can just understand it, we can let go. But you just let go first, and that is the understanding. You don't care about understanding anything anymore. You're just at rest, at peace. It all makes sense. It all just makes sense when we stop trying to understand it. Surrender is finally admitting that we don't know what's going on.
All this philosophy, all this talking about it, I understand that we're trying to figure it out, but maybe instead just ask yourself one question - Who am I without thought? And since you can't answer the question with thought because that would undo the entire question itself - who are you without thought? And you sit there with a quiet mind and that's it. There's no answer. There's no knowing. There's no doubt that I am, but I don't know anything else. Without thought, who am I? What am I? If I can't think about myself, if I can't form even one word about myself? No thoughts. Quiet mind. Silent mind. Who am I without thought? And you sit and watch and watch and watch.
I would have to say that the breath is the most powerful tool we have for waking up. There may be more powerful ones, but we just don't have access to them or can't integrate them quickly enough to use them very often, but the breath is always available. You can use it a lot. You can use it a little. Hard. Soft. It's always available to bring us into the present, right? What better present reminder than breath? It's always present. That's its great power. It is doing the most powerful thing by pulling our attention into the present. Knowing ourselves as the present. Coming into the now and dropping all the thinking, all the stories, all the thoughts, just letting them go all at once. Every time we're truly present, we have let go of every story in our lives. When you're present, every single story in your life disappears. That's a remarkable power. Wow. Wow. That might be the most powerful recognition I've ever had, in some sense - that presence has the power to obliterate or remove, destroy, silence - I like silence - silence every story in your life. Remarkable.
There are so many stories and they all want to take us out of our hearts. We don't want to face what pains our hearts. So we listen to the mind, which never stops talking, trying to figure out life and arrange it so it feels safe, and paying attention to the thoughts so we don't have to feel the pain in our hearts. So when you find yourself starting to regularly breathe deeply into your heart, it's a sign of a certain progress in your level of consciousness. You find that you have the courage to start breathing deeply into your heart, and that you're doing it on a more regular basis, and you keep finding that that's where you want to be.
Spiritual awakening is not a race. We're so conditioned in this culture. It's not a mantle to be taken on and a race to be won. It's one to be honored and curious about, and respected and surrendered to. There's no shortcuts. It's not first one to the end wins. We all will win in the end. It's respecting where we are, even though we can't even really conceive of where we are with the limited nature of thinking and conceptual ideas about it. We can intuit a sort of progression, and yet it's not a competition at all. It's a very ingrained unconscious pattern, certainly in the Western mindset that it's a race to the finish, and this just causes more suffering.
If someone asks you
Who you are
And you go to answer
And no story will arise
So you stand there
Waiting to answer
But nothing comes
You’re totally silent inside
Like when your mind goes blank
But this one keeps on going
So you don’t know
How to answer the question
Who are you
But then you notice that you still are
You still are just as you were before the question
And as you always have been
But without identity
Without being a this or that
Because in this experiment
No answer will arise
No story of who I am
I can’t say any of those things
Cause nothing arises in that moment
Totally empty of thought
Empty of identity
When I am most connected in my life, when I am in a state of the deepest presence, it's amazing how simple it gets. There's nothing I love more than just breathing when I'm feeling that mystically connected. Just to lie there or sit there and breathe is the deepest joy and contentment. I'm just kind of marveling on how simple the demands of life become when you're truly feeling connected, then it's just breathing. It becomes enough to live for. It's like aaahhh, what else do I need but this? That's when you feel deeply connected, if you think about it. If that's really all you feel you need, you don't have any other demands. That's deeply connected. That's really knowing yourself in that moment. And then there have been those times when even that falls away, the breath falls away. It's just utter stillness. Just vast awareness, no self referencing whatsoever. Just aware, deeply still, without boundaries. Just vast awareness. And there's no one in those moments to even have a demand. There's no thought that arises. And when no thought arises, there is no ego.
Is there any difference between my experience of myself and my experience of this moment? It's a very profound question and inquiry. And it's one of those inquiring questions that you can't think about. You can't look to the mind to answer the question. You ask the question and then you look, you watch, you see, you listen. First of all, what is my experience of myself? Just that's a fascinating question. Without answering it in words, without answering it in thoughts, what is my experience of myself? Settle into that as long as you want, as long as you can, until it becomes conceptual, until you start thinking and having thoughts about it. Then let it go and repeat the question to yourself again, as long as it has juice. What is my experience of myself? So just the question itself guides you because the experience of yourself is not thoughts about yourself. Your experience of yourself is something other than a story about yourself. That might be part of it. That may rise within your experience of yourself, but your experience of yourself is something more, kind of a constant, it's ever present, it's life. So, what is this experience of myself, this ongoing experience of myself? And then you can ask yourself, what is my experience of this moment? Again, not a question to be answered with words, but just to settle into. I like Jean Klein's term global listening - you listen to life, listen to yourself with your entire being, a global listening. What is this experience? What is my experience of this moment? And after you go as deeply as you can into that inquiry, you can then ask the third and final question in this inquiry, which is, is there a difference between my experience of myself and my experience of this moment? And then again, fall into silent listening. And for me, I can't find a difference. None at all. I am this moment. My experience of me is my experience of this moment. That shining, that background luminescence of this moment. The presence of this moment. The substrate of this moment. And yet same with this moment as everything. Just the now. And all its mysterious manifestation moment to moment to moment as one whole. When I'm still and I ask that question, what is the difference between my experience of myself and my experience of this moment? I don't find any. There's simply this ever-present awareness in which all things arise, be them seemingly inside of me or outside of me. They're all arising within this presence, but they're not different from this presence. It's that old saying? There's no seer and nothing seen. No hearer and nothing heard. Just listening itself. Just seeing itself. Just the experience experiencing itself. Life experiencing itself moment to moment to moment.
If someone asks a question about their own lives, their own suffering, always the deepest direction to question is the validity of the I that is suffering. Who is this I you're speaking of? What is the nature of this? That is the deepest inquiry and the one that has the most potential to free people at the deepest level. And yet, that's very difficult for some people to even frame, to even understand that question, to even understand how to ask that question. So there's tools that are aimed at addressing this illusory I, this fictitious I, that still believes that it's substantial and real, as opposed to the underlying self-existing wakefulness that is our deepest nature. It's sort of a two-pronged approach, addressing the chaotic energies in this ego bound version of I, body, mind, story, and to address the energies that are causing the obscurations, as they might say in Buddhism, you know, causing so much restlessness in the system, so much distraction, an inability to ask the deepest inquiries, the deepest questions, and to sort of rest in the answers of those questions, or not necessarily the answers, but the vision, the view of those questions. So, it's a two-pronged approach. It's doing as best we can to ask and look into these deepest questions. -Who am I? What is the nature of this I? - And also, how can I release these energies that keep me restless and make me unable to sit still and gaze deeply into my own nature. They can be done at the same time. You don't have to wait to see who you are, but your glimpses may be shorter and you may not have any at all, or they just may be shorter since there's still so much restlessness and anxiety in the nervous system to be able to have a substantial, sustained look into your true nature. So, something for everybody in a sense. Those who already are still enough that they can ask that question and be still enough to watch as it unfolds. And then those who are still more restless and need to release some of the chaotic energies that create restlessness and an inability to sit still long enough to be able to gaze deeply into one's experience when asking those questions.
We purify not because it's purifying our spirit or true nature. We purify so that we can rest longer and longer, become more stabilized in presence as presence, because the more unconscious material that we still have, the more we find ourselves lost in stories and thoughts in the mind. So it's good to remember that we're not purifying to become perfect, to become our true selves. We're purifying so that we can recognize our true selves and rest in that in a relaxed, stable manner without getting pulled out by unconscious material.