This post begins and ends in silence. What emerges in between is a little noise about a problem and seeking a solution for this problem.
Or, seeking a way out of the repetition of apparent problems and solutions, that is called a life. Silence all around.
It appears as if the last few years of this life, for this character, has manifested in fewer and fewer words and more silence, in part because the message that was being shared—a glimpse of the problem-making system itself—wasn’t what appeared to be on order. What was really being sought fit more along the lines of putting up a sidewalk stand, like Lucy from Peanuts, with a sign that read “Unfuck Yourself.” But it was clear that one problem solved led to a walk down a very short hallway that led to the doorway to the next problem. Hallways, doors, ad infinitum.
Very few encounters stuck with the kind of clarity that comes from seeing through the trick of mind that leads to the perceptual distortion of seeing error everywhere. The clarity was/is there, ever so apparent and obvious, as always, but since that creates a kind of vacuum in this problem-driven life, it is very quickly replaced by the appearance of another anxiety. The clarity of which I speak is what might also be referred to as a “spiritual experience.” The aha! The laughter of relief, of “Oh!” That is what is on sale generally. Which is understandable, given that it is pretty cool, that open space between doorways.
But perhaps clarity feels more like an awakening, or a shift, because the problem-making antagonism is just…absent. And that feels different.
A famous novelist once told me that he was only as good as his last sentence. A spiritual high is only as good as your next thought.
And so it seemed that this function of pointing and looking behind and around the funhouse mirror was improbable, unasked for, and maybe just boring. You can’t really bring nonduality into the dualistic dream, no more than sleeping with a gun protects you in your dreams. The only thing that saves you from what is chasing you in a dream is to wake up. That clears it all up pretty quick. Without weapons. Or any kind of strategy.
Last week, through a couple of serendipitous encounters, the idea that relief from a problem, any problem, was revisited and seen as maybe a viable way to undo the whole wax ball of fuckery. Because here’s the thing—all problems are false flags, are red herrings. They occupy all your attention, and make the body uneasy. So you follow that, and what you think is going on is actually a diversion from, or a muddling of that open, clear space. Attention is focused on the diversion, rather than on the actual crime.
Without the hyper-focused attention on that “problem,” there might be a sense of urgency, but the idea of threat is an interpretation. Without that sense of uneasiness, say in unguarded moments, you don’t know who or what you are. There is just this openness to what is going on. Peace can be provocative, as it is in a conflict-driven relationship. A creeping anxiety, in quiet, reinstates a sense of agency, a focus away from that dis-orientation. So, better to have a pain, an issue, a subtle sense of something-is-wrong-I-need-to-do-something than to experience that kind of nonlocal absence of identity.
In the words of Byron Katie, “Who would you be without that problem?” You don’t know. It is unfamiliar. Even a momentary suspension of certainty initiates the reentry into a compulsive repetitive behavior cycle. We could call that addiction, or neurosis, or whatever. It is how the idea of being a separate person in a separate body is sustained, jousting at windmills we call problems. What would you do instead?
To unfuck yourself is to no longer be beholden to the contraction that seems to indicate fear or anxiety over this or that problem. And I say “beholden to the contraction” because it is never the problem itself, but the subtle clench, and interpretation of such as a threat, and/or as a directive to do something, anything to alleviate this unease.
What gives shape to that “problem,” that subtle uneasiness? The divided and dividing mind creates a perception that is inherently problematic, and often dangerous. That is its gig. The mind creates something out of nothing. It fills in the void. The body is in on the con—the contracting, emoting body, providing evidence that this problem is real, man.
What is meant by divided and divisive mind? The world is created in thought. It’s all mind. Yet thoughts disagree with what is happening. So mind creates both “the way it should be,” and “this ain’t it.” If you identify with thoughts, there is a war going on within, reflected without. Do you notice the insanity?
This mind tells you, “Come on, you’re napping here, here is the problem, a very serious and real problem, I’m telling you.” The perception then conforms to that (the rope becomes a snake), and exhorts this threatened separate self, through physiological arousal, to do something to escape the unpleasant bodily sensations that were just created by the thoughts! What we call fear or anxiety is a mind/body loop.
And, most ironically, you are implicated in a crime of your own making. Both victim and perpetrator. The ultimate dualistic opposition: me vs my thoughts. What? Who is doing what to whom?
So we effectively deal with problems (thoughts and bodily responses) for most of our life, rather than simply relaxing into a way of being that is like floating on a constantly moving sea. Rather than being pulled down by waves and subterranean currents in the ocean, the idea is to simply float. Maybe you’re pulled in again and thrash about for a bit, only to float again. And that is fine, is all right. See the ocean for what it really is. Watch it all come and go. The ocean is not out to get you. It is a powerful momentum expressed as waves, tides, currents, and ideas of what you are. As the Zen saying goes, “Let go or be dragged.”
To mix metaphors, there is a movie going on, and you are the Movie Goer/Maker. As a fellow audience member, if you turn to me in fear, do I share a pamphlet of printed instructions, or whisper to you that the movie ends in a redemptive note? Or simply smile and look around so as to remind you where we are and who we are, and get you to look away from the screen long enough to realize this for yourself?
So yes, we can get through a scary scene. But at what point do the scenes themselves become irrelevant, no longer something to solve or get through? Because it is a movie that is being projected.
Or we can see who and where and what we are and get curious about the flickering images on the screen. Because it can be watched rather than lived.
You decide. See your way out of a “problem,” or see your way out of the mesmerizing machine, the movie of your life.
What passes for self-improvement is a wash, but it can evolve into a shift of identity for that puny, thought-emotion-riddled self, or not.
Remember the silence in which this post began? From there, everything arises. Thinking makes what is seen because it judges and interprets what is seen. This is the projection, the movie projector rolling clips and dialogue through the light. When thoughts are allowed to pass on by, nothing need be added on to this silence. Much is added on, but know that the silence is there first, behind it all—while thoughts go on creating something out of nothing. Including any idea of who you are. And what the world is.
<–This represents the nothing/silence from which everything arises=Birth, deep sleep, deep meditation.
<–This represents the inception of two, of separation. Thought arises, names, labels, objects.
<–This is a problem. This is where you live. Anxiety, and an underlying tension, contraction.
<–Go back to this, before the mind divides. Silence. No ideas, no judgment. That is all that is ever happening. From nothing, to thought and tension and the experience that something is happening, something must be done. Go back prior to thought and tension. Even if thoughts and tension are there, what is noticing it? What is the ground behind all experiencing? How quiet is that?
Beautiful writing Colette. Miss you. Nancy
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Hey there, Nancy. Miss you, too. Hope all is well. Take care.
Colette, what a fabulous post! Really, you have outdone yourself.
What I always feel inspired to remember is to listen to the silence. When I get calm, the silence can be deafening. I love listening to it. This post has only reinforced my determination to keep this job description of listening to the silence at the forefront of my awareness. Thank you!
And may I add, I am hoping you are doing beautifully on all levels.
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Thanks, Paul. Good to hear from you! And Hope all is well with you.