Saturday, March 25, 2017

Joan Tollifson - How to awaken?

How to awaken? Stop thinking about it. Stop trying to get it. Stop trying to have (or not have) any particular experience. Relax into the pure experiencing of right here, right now, just as it is. Listen to the sounds, feel the sensations, see the colors and shapes (the pure visual sensations before the labels). Be quiet. Be still. Listen. Sense. Simply BE, effortlessly, simply.

Be aware of being aware. You can’t see awareness or grasp it, but there can be a simple noticing that awareness is here, an awareness of being aware. Feel the sense of presence, of being present. Feel the spaciousness, the openness, the aliveness of this awaring presence. Notice that whatever time of day it is, it is always Now, and that whatever location shows up, it always shows up Here. Feel (sense) into the vastness, the boundlessness of Here / Now, this timeless immediacy. Notice that Here / Now (awareness itself) has no beginning or end, no edges, no limits, no place where it is not.

Feel into the deepest core of what you mean when you refer to “I”—prior to thought and memory, prior to everything learned second-hand (such as your name, gender, age, occupation, nationality, life story, and so on), before all that, what are you? You know without a doubt that you are here. Feel deeply into that knowingness that I AM. In your direct experience, is that awaring presence encapsulated inside a body? Does it have any limits or any particular form? Feel the vibrancy, the aliveness, the spaciousness, the present-ness, the no-thing-ness that I AM.

Ask yourself, what is beholding ALL of this, even the most subtle sense of presence? Don’t try to come up with an answer. Instead, allow this question to invite a direct exploration, feeling into this without seeking any result. What is being pointed out with this question is not something you will see or “get” as an object. Nor is it some flashy new experience. In fact, you won’t find any-thing at all. (And if you do find or experience something, ask yourself, what is beholding that?). We can call what is being pointed out by many names: Primordial Awareness, the Ultimate Subject, the Self, True Self, God, emptiness, no-thing-ness, Unicity, Zero. But the actuality of it is prior to any name we put on it. It is more subtle than anything perceivable, conceivable or experienceable. It is ever-present, and it is the very Heart of your being, so if you are looking for it, you are actually looking out of it. And although it is nothing perceivable or conceivable, at the same time, there is nothing you can see or experience that is not it.

Thoughts may pop up (they probably will), storylines may arise (they probably will), the fog of emotion-thought may thicken and the pull of re-identifying as the separate self may be very strong at times. I am reminded in such moments of that scene in Homer’s Odyssey when Odysseus has his men plug their ears and tie him to the mast as they pass by the island of the Sirens—those creatures whose mesmerizing voices were known to lure sailors to shipwreck on the rocky coast of the island. Our stories, beliefs, old habit patterns and identities are like those Siren songs, and they can be very strong, sometimes irresistible. It’s as if we fall briefly under a hypnotic spell. Consciousness, it seems, is easily entranced by its own creations. What to do?

Start by not doing anything. Simply allow everything to be as it is in this moment. Don’t resist what shows up or chase after something else. See the thoughts that pop up for the habitual, conditioned movements of mind that they are—don’t believe them or mistake them for an objective report on reality. See if it is possible to hear them without getting hypnotized by the storylines they spin, to hear them the same way you might hear traffic sounds or bird songs. And if you do get temporarily hypnotized and caught up in these storylines, when waking up happens, as it does naturally by itself, don’t judge yourself for having been caught up, don’t take it personally, don’t hold onto it or give it meaning—simply let it go and gently return to simply being present as awake awareness: hearing the traffic or the barking dog, feeling the breathing, feeling sensations in the body, being aware of being aware, sensing the spaciousness of boundless presence, BEING the listening silence that you always already are.

Awakening is simply a shift in attention from thoughts to presence, from separation to wholeness. It involves a relaxing (or opening) of attention, allowing the narrow, hard focus of seeking, resisting, controlling and grasping to soften and let go, surrendering everything, falling into the arms of the Beloved, dissolving into the Beloved, being no-thing at all.

And from this open, relaxed, awake presence, action can happen as needed. Focused attention can return and narrow as needed, but without hardening, grasping or fixating. And however the attention moves, it doesn’t ever actually disturb the vastness in any way. That open, spacious field of awareness is ever-present. It is the groundless ground of every experience. Don’t take that as a belief, but stop and check at any moment—is awareness here? You’ll find that it always is. Here / Now is ever-present. And just as the movie screen is never burned by the fire in the movie, it can be noticed that awareness (Here / Now) is never damaged by anything that appears in the movie of waking life. The focus of attention will shift or narrow or expand as it needs to, and experiencing will feel different in different moments—you talk to children, teach a class, do your taxes, perform surgery, work on the computer, drive a bus, visit a friend, care for an aging parent, organize a protest march, talk things out with a spouse or a housemate, attend a business meeting, plan for the future and learn from the past in appropriate and functional ways, and so on. All of this is the Self functioning. It is the movie on the screen, the movie of waking life, the dance of emptiness, the expression of the Absolute in form. It is not other than the Absolute, but the Absolute is not trapped in the movie. The Absolute dances freely as the movie.

I find it immensely helpful to make time every day to sit quietly doing nothing, just being. I recommend this. And then throughout the day, when it occurs to you and the opportunity arises, simply pause for a moment and listen to the sounds, feel the sensations, be aware of awareness, be knowingly present as the boundless awaring presence that you are. This can happen anywhere—at work, on the city bus, while walking or eating a meal. Even as you are talking to someone, both as you talk and as you listen, see if it’s possible to also be aware of sounds, sensations in the body, breathing, the sense of presence, the listening silence, the stillness, the whole happening of the moment. You may find that this changes how you talk and how you listen.

And don’t be caught in some idea that you “should” or “must” do this “all the time” or perfectly. Don’t evaluate how well you’re doing it. Actually, you (as the separate self) are not doing anything—you don’t actually exist! Those thoughts about progress and success or failure are all coming from the perspective of that imaginary separate self. Awakening is about waking up from the dream of being that little, separate, encapsulated me. So, don’t compare this illusory phantom self with other illusory phantom selves. That is a waste of time! And if these movements of the habitual thinking mind do pop up, simply see them for what they are—conditioned habits—and let them go. Relax back into simple being.

The most important realization you can have is that it is always Now. Awakening is never about yesterday or tomorrow or once-and-for-all or forever-after or the next moment or the last moment. It’s always NOW. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t (relatively speaking) a kind of evolutionary process involved, a gradual unfolding over time, a deepening or stabilizing or embodying that occurs, but that process only happens Now.

Waking up is the dissolution of the sense of separation and encapsulation and the mistaken identity as a separate self. That doesn’t mean you forget your name or lose the functional sense of boundaries and location that are needed to survive, but your true identity is with the boundless awareness in which all of this comes and goes. Awakening is never about the separate “me” achieving something or becoming an improved, enlightened or awakened “somebody” in “The Story of My Life.” That is all a kind of delusion. Being awake is about being no-thing at all. And paradoxically, when there is no thought-sense of being somebody, the person is set free to be the truest, most genuine expression it can be.

There is no distance at all between you right here, right now and boundless awareness, the True Self. Here / Now is what “I” truly is. You can never actually leave Here / Now. You can only imagine that you have left, that you are lost or lacking. All of that drama is in the movie.

The more clearly that is seen, and the more we explore and feel into the open spaciousness of presence-awareness, the more deeply realized and embodied this all becomes and the less alluring the Siren songs of old habit are. There is no end to this awakening journey. There is no such thing as after Now or before Now—there is only Now, and yet, there are ever new subtleties, ever new discoveries, ever new challenges. Every moment is new and fresh—it has never been here before.


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