Friday, November 8, 2013

Joan Tollifson - Complication and Simplicity

Not that long ago, people lived in a world where there was no social media, no internet, no computers, no YouTube, no printing presses, no airplanes, no trains, no cars, no highways, no telephones, no televisions, no radios, no streaming media. Zen students in those days might walk on foot for months across miles of dangerous terrain to meet once with a teacher. The Advaita sage Nisargadatta Maharaj met his guru only a few times. Today an astronomical number of teachers and their videos, talks and writings are available at our fingertips on-line. We can spend days surfing the net, going from website to website, trying to reconcile one person’s expression of this with that of another. We can jet all over the world going from satsang to satsang and from one teacher to the next, following still others on our hand-held devices as we travel.

This is wonderful in many ways. But it can easily turn into a kind of feeding frenzy that can feel overwhelming, confusing and even addictive. We have so much to consume that it's easy to never really digest anything. The very nature of the delivery system tends in many ways to reinforce the restlessness and discontent that prompts the seeking and grasping, rather than helping us to actually see through this discontent and relax into the simplicity of what is, right here, right now.

Of course, all of this about the good old days and the frenzy of modern life is a story -- it requires thought, memory and imagination to conjure it up -- so don't take it too seriously. Nothing is really an obstruction, and there is actually nothing to obstruct. But in order to realize that, it may help to stop racing around for a moment. So I invite you, after you finish reading this article, to turn away from your computer or put down whatever device you are using to read this, and take a pause.

For at least a few minutes, simply be present as thoughtless awareness, doing nothing, simply being. This is what you cannot not be, the effortless and unavoidable happening that you always already are, the happening Here / Now that includes everything as one seamless and undivided whole. Let whatever shows up be just as it is, without trying to do (or not do) anything special. Breathing, hearing the sounds of traffic or birds singing, feeling sensations in the body, allowing it all to be just as it is. Whenever you notice you are absorbed in a train of thought, if you can, simply let the thoughts go and return to this simple, bare, naked experiencing of the present moment. You’re not trying to accomplish anything or figure anything out. You’re simply being present as this all-inclusive Here / Now, awake to whatever shows up. You may notice the spaciousness, the relief, the effortless ease of simply being. And if you don't feel spaciousness and ease, if instead you feel a bodily sense of restlessness, anxiety or unease -- that's okay, too. Whatever shows up, simply let it be part of the dance. Nothing needs to be any different from how it is.

It's not that thoughtless awareness or naked sensory experiencing is "better" or "more nondual" or more "spiritually correct" than thinking and trying to figure everything out and racing from one website to the next in search of something that will finally allow us to relax and feel that we have arrived. It's simply that all our suffering and confusion is in the attempt to grasp and formulate what is literally inconceivable. We're making ourselves miserable by searching outside of ourselves for what is already fully present Here / Now. The freedom and relief we are seeking is not "out there" somewhere. It is right here in the falling away of the search.

And if that sounds unbelievable, just pause.

Can you feel the relief in simply being here, not trying to figure anything out, not seeking any special experience other than the one that is happening right now, not searching for answers, but simply being? Just this, exactly as it is.


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