Thursday, July 18, 2013

Paul Hedderman - LIFE IS A VERB, NOT A NOUN

Text is by Paul Hedderman, selected and edited from his talks by James Saint Cloud, part of a series on Emotional First Aid at

Paul Hedderman's site is:
Art on this page is by Aimee Stewart ( 


Each moment Life streams through the gates of the senses, fresh and new. That’s CONSCIOUS CONTACT. Then the mind hijacks it, says, “I am what’s in conscious contact.”A bird flies by.

 There is simple consciousness of it; seeing happens.
Then the head says, "I am doing that."
 WHO is seeing --- the sense of being the one seeing --- becomes more important than
SEEING itself.

You’re not the seer. That is a STORY, an INTERPRETATION. The conscious contact is being claimed by the head. It puts you to sleep to the awareness that you ARE conscious contact.Life is a VERB. It’s just happening. Not TO anyone. Just energy, ripping like crazy. But Self makes a NOUN of itself. A thing. The illusion of being a noun is that everything is happening from outside TO YOU.

All day, every bit of conscious contact that is continually happening, your head is claiming it, as YOU being the one in contact.

The “self” is just a story the mind’s running. Nothing ever happened to Paul. To what I AM. I am the pure and simple AWARENESS of events.

Most humans are living in that world of WHAT'S NOT HAPPENING. Living in THE THOUGHT OF past and future. Producing a lot of anxiety. “What might happen to me?” The physical apparatus is reacting to that all the time. Stressed by living more than one day at a time.

Life is happening; it’s a verb. The verb is the reality and the noun is the illusion. You are looking at it from the point of view of being a noun so you’re missing it. That’s what your head is doing all day: INTERPRETING what is going on and making it into a story about something else. You lose the verbing of life as soon as the noun claims the experience as something that happened to it.

You say you want to be "awake." But while you are adsorbed in the story of self you will be unconscious to the fact that you are ALREADY AWAKE. Then you may have the curse of thinking you want to BECOME awake. Reinforcing the idea that you are not awake.

The head is playing God. And it’s already beat you, since now it’s got you thinking you’re not awake. It’s going to play with that for years.

There’s no escaping WHAT’S SO. You can SENSE living or else you can THINK about it. That’s the choice.

This is not about acquiring knowledge. It’s about waking up to the essence of what we call living. If you identify as SELF, you’re going to inhabit the realm of WHAT'S NOT HAPPENING. The future and the past.

A thought is just a thought; but it changes dramatically when it becomes MY thought. The interpretation of the thought as being mine is slapped on it. But that’s not living, it’s reliving – a self-centered system of thought and interpretation always going on.

You think you’re separate from life and it’s HAPPENING TO you. “I’m the noun that everything is happening to.” But there is no noun in living; it’s just verbing.

When you’re seeing with a noun way of looking you are interpreting life from a false center. And you don’t understand why you’re so confused. All the experiences of being a verb become something that the noun HAD. You're wanting the verb-ness of life, but you’re missing it. You’re saddled with this noun way of looking at things. There is the dilemma: You cannot see you've made yourself into a noun. The noun cannot get the sense of peace because peace is a living movement, not a stagnant thing you acquire or capture.

As a noun life becomes interpreted and you become a storage unit for the mind’s interpretation of life. You’re not experiencing a living moment, you’re rehashing an old moment. You live from memory; interpretation is constantly presented to override the living-ness of life.

As a noun the best you can do is to assume that you HAD an experience; you cannot be THAT in which the experience occurs. One is a movement; the other is a package deal. You’re either moving with things or you are packaging them up, “I know this and that; I’ve had this and that experience.” Taking the verb and transforming it into something you possess.

The mind’s interpretation is, “All right, I’m going to stick myself in front of that verb. Stick myself in as a noun and edit life, under the assumption that I am the doer of this verb. I am seeing, I am touching, I am feeling, I am hearing, and I am especially thinking about it all. The doer and the haver and the interpreter.

Exhausting! Trying to have control over it all. Grasping at some assurance it’s going to be okay down the river. Building dams and reservoirs.

What fuels the selfing is your attention to the thoughts, your obsession with them. But the thoughts are about a body, not about you. Seeing that, you can become disinterested in it. The energy gets freed up. Maybe you’ll even become interested in the source of life, called consciousness.

Perhaps you have an epiphany: Life with the absence of self. You get the flavor of the moment, life-as-it-happens; and it startles the self into submission. The self goes down, goes to its corner, has some water thrown on it; but it’s soon back in the ring again, saying, "Oh! I HAD the experience, this epiphany!" It pulls out a victory from the threshold of defeat.

Generally the epiphany ends when this selfing arises and interpretation begins. A couple of epiphanies like that and you’ll be a spiritual noun. Ha-ha!

But the epiphany may offer a glimpse outside the box of being a noun — a portal between timeless and time I call the “pause" or the “gap.” Attention gets out of the box and spreads out. An eternal non-time event in this linear story of time. Witnessing seeing, feeling, touching, tasting, and thinking as the eye would witness a passing bird. That’s conscious contact.

The mind’s reaction to conscious contact is: I am doing the seeing, touching, thinking. The mind’s major method of moving is CLAIMING. There is life; then the mind claims that life.

You can drop down into verbing and see the noun in action. See it on its throne. The verbing doesn’t stop; it’s always on. There is not a "past of presence" nor a "future of presence." There is BEING. Now.
You have tons of old ideas about you. Unless you let go of these you are traveling very heavy.

You’re meant to be fluid. A very light boat that can navigate and handle different kinds of weather.

You’re just an old tanker now. Each moment big waves coming in. You need relief. But where do you go for that release? To your head! Which is the problem. The relief it offers is part of the bondage to self. We go to the problem asking for advice!

Get a better self? When will that be delivered? Never now. Always put off. “When I arrive there, it will all be great.” And when you arrive? The happiness doesn’t arrive; and the mind blames you for it.

Selfing is not what you are. There is no noun happening. But when you look into the past, or look into the future, it’s all about what is happening to the self. It can worry the hell out of you.

Solution: Look at a situation and see no problem. Only what is now. Being-ness. With that recognition comes immunity from becoming a noun. The real flavor of life, just happening — not happening “to me” — this is the open secret, the gateless gate. Available at all times.

Realize you not in the problem. Never have been. That’s the solution. The lie is that you were “in self.” But you never were. Your attention was hijacked, that’s all.

You and I have tons of faith. But what vehicle do you put it in? Most of us have been putting it into the idea of self, of self-centeredness. This leads to fear, since self-centeredness is unreliable. You faith in self produces the anxiety that you try to deal with as though it’s real and solid. The same faith put into the infinite will create an ease and comfort. Traveling lighter.

The mind tries to write its relevance into the story. But things are just happening. It has nothing to do with the self at all. The head’s interpretation is causing travel to be very heavy. All based on the idea of being a self.

Self says it wants to “be free,” but true freedom is to be free OF IT: To be the verb of attention, pure and freed from self. Selfing needs attention; when the attention is taken from it, there is the freedom.

Something has been witnessing through you. If you knew what had been witnessing through you, it would take your breath way. You would just sit there in adoring gratitude.

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