As spiritual seekers we enjoy listening to or reading theories of awakening and enlightenment. We want to believe there is some sort of step-by-step plan we can follow and understand with our minds. That’s the way we’ve learned everything else in our life. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that it hasn’t really worked, at least not yet. But there’s always the hope that the next thing will, or perhaps it will if we’re a little more diligent in following the path we’ve already learned. At some point in this process at least a few of us will realize that it’s not working and it probably won’t.
This is rather disillusioning. If all these spiritual books and teachers can’t help me, what can?
Let me suggest a much simpler approach that perhaps we’ve missed. And very likely we’ve missed it on purpose. 🙂
The reason that all these wonderful new spiritual theories and step-by-step practices haven’t really worked is that they’re all based on thoughts. And thoughts are not the solution. They’re the problem. Not thoughts themselves, but our belief and attachment to them.
Let’s call freedom from all thoughts the “zero point”. It doesn’t mean there are no thoughts, but no thought is believed in, no thought is attached to. Thoughts have zero importance.
In spiritual terms this zero point is often called Samadhi and sometimes Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss).
Ramana Maharshi has said, “When the Self is realized, the world disappears.” This is an interesting comment and very true. And there is a simple explanation for it that has to do with how we perceive the world. We perceive the world through our thoughts about the world and the objects in it. Our first experience of this zero point is often the apparent disappearance of the world and all the objects in it. All objects we were previously seeing appear to have disappeared into a pure light. This may sound frightening, but it is anything but. It is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
Years ago I spontaneously discovered a little experiment. After years of meditation and a practice of letting go of attachment to thoughts I called “don’t know” mind, I discovered I could look at any object and, layer by layer, surrender every thought I had about it, name, form, color, function, connection, etc. When this was complete for that object, that object would at first become very blurry and then disappear completely into the background. I could no longer see it. As soon as a single thought about it reappeared it would immediately snap back into sharp focus.
This was fascinating to me so for a while I experimented with this with many objects in my perception. What it taught me was that I could not physically see an object as something separate from everything else without thoughts about that object. Without thoughts I could not separate an object from the background it appeared in front of. Without a thought, that object ceased to exist to my perceptions.
This also explains why the entire world and all objects cease to be perceivable at the zero point, Samadhi, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. As Ramana says, “When the Self is realized, the world disappears.”
If you have not yet experienced this, then this will only be another thought to you. This is why all words are only useful as pointers, not Truth. Hopefully these words can point you to a little expansion, a little less attachment to and belief in words as Truth. And also a little better understanding of what your perceptions (sight, touch, sound, smell, taste, etc.) are made from, as well as a little better understanding of your thoughts and feelings and even sense of self.
Let me add here that physicists have long known that what we see as solid matter is actually 99% empty space. Hopefully this will give you even less confidence, attachment and belief in what you see and believe as reality. That is certainly what the experience of the zero point, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, awakening or your True Self will do for you. It will leave your mind forever free of mental knowing. And this freedom is bliss. It is peace. It is unconditional love. It is True Knowing. It is Presence to what is in each moment.
The initial experience of this freedom from thoughts, what we call awakening, is so radically different from everything we have ever “known”, which we now realize was just a thought-based waking dream, that it takes some time for integration. Some rush this integration and too quickly develop thoughts and theories about what it is. They let their initial discomfort and unfamiliarity with being in a thought-free state of complete not knowing trigger them back into a thought-world, although now it is a “spiritual” or “awakened” thought-world. But this is still a thought-world. It is a new dream, but it is still a dream.
There is another option.
Obviously remaining fully in the zero-point / Samadhi is not going to work for functioning in this material plane. Without perceiving objects, we cannot function with them. So that is not really an option, at least not for long. We might call the practical second option a Middle Way or as I like to call it:
In Living Awake we are fully aware that our thoughts are not reality, are not Truth. They are just thoughts. In this way we live free of thoughts. We are fully aware that all our perceptions depend on these thoughts and so none of our perceptions are real. The world we perceive is an illusion, a dream depending entirely on thoughts. I understand how disorienting this will seem to those who still believe their thoughts and perceptions. What is there to trust? What is there to depend on? Nothing in the dream. But for one who has experienced the zero point, Samadhia, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, the True Self, this is a life of complete freedom.
This is what it truly means to live in the world but not of it.
The world will always appear as a dream because of the way our brain and perceptions function. Reality can never be understood with the mind, thoughts or perceptions. When this is realized it is accepted. When this is accepted the dream no longer affects us, no longer causes any problems or suffering. Living Awake is living free.
I understand that very few people have experienced the zero point as described above. And of the few who have few have spent enough time to fully integrate it. Of those who have not yet experienced this, there is a great deal of misunderstanding, attempted and believed mental understanding and flat out fear and resistance to letting go of the thought-world that completely.
Yet there are very practical applications for this understanding in every stage of consciousness and attachment.
True and miraculous healing happens as soon as someone lets go of their attachment to the thoughts that create their suffering. It’s not something people are used to doing. But it is far less challenging than it might seem. I have helped many people do this with amazing results. It is only necessary to work with someone who is already free of thoughts.
You can see how well this works in The Work of Byron Katie. Simply questioning these thoughts already gives some freedom. The more this freedom is experienced the more insight arises from direct experience about the true cause of suffering and freedom from suffering.
As soon as anyone is free of thoughts, they are instantly fully Present. It might be said that Presence, mindfulness and being free of thoughts are the same thing.
It’s not necessary to experience full zero point. Even a short moment of freedom from thoughts is healing.
The most powerful mantra I know of is “I don’t know.” If understood and accepted fully this mantra brings instantaneous freedom. We have been carrying an enormous burden of layers of thoughts. Each year of our life we have added to this burden. We call it knowledge. The simple understanding that these are nothing but thoughts, and that thoughts are only representations of reality, not reality, can free us instantly from this burden. The freedom of this mantra “I don’t know”, fully understood and accepted, is amazing.
Do not worry. We don’t lose this knowledge. It doesn’t vanish. All we lose is the illusion that this knowledge is anything more than layer after layer of thoughts. In this realization and acceptance, we are free to experience the truth of life as it is without the heavy filters of thoughts that were in the way and prevented us from experiencing it. We were taught that the more knowledge we had the closer we would come to Truth. Life shows us that the opposite is true.
It doesn’t mean thoughts are not useful. They are. This is how we learn. This is how our culture was and is created. This is how we form our personal separate identity. The problem is that we believe these thoughts are more than thoughts. We believe they are reality. We believe they are Truth, just as we believe what we perceive with our eyes is reality, not a dream created with our thoughts.
All spiritual seekers have heard that life is a dream. Perhaps now you are beginning to understand what that means. It’s not life that’s a dream. It’s our thoughts and perceptions of life that are a dream. It we want to truly experience the miracle of what life is, we only have to let go of our belief in and attachment to all the thoughts we have about it.