Victor: I was wondering: There are so many methods and practices that it is most confusing to someone who is trying to recognize their awareness.
Metta: Indeed. This has been an interesting issue for me to explore, as well. May I run on a bit here with some thoughts?
Metta: Ken Wilber has asserted that many teachers initially adopt a "purist" stance: "No practice is needed. There is nothing to attain." But too many students are utterly confounded by this, and then the teachers gradually give in, and eventually begin providing a variety of practices which do help to stabilize body and mind, and encourage better management of our own vital energies, as some sort of preparation for the experience of Realization. (See "Integral Transformative Practice: In This World or Out of It?" by Ken Wilber in the current issue [#18] of What is Enlightenement?.)
I have very mixed feelings about this, myself, largely because the recognition that was so significant and unambiguous for me was exactly this: "No practice is needed. There is nothing to attain." For me to begin now advocating specific methods and practices would be inconsistent with my own immediate experience. (Even if one could argue that certain conditions facilitate ripeness for Realization, my belief/experience is that no conditions facilitate this readiness more or less than any others -- except the circumstances and conditions within which we already find ourselves.)
As for all the varieties of approaches, I'm fond of the schematization provided by Andrew Rawlinson in The Book of Enlightened Masters as an overview for understanding the huge range of variations between approaches. Are you familiar with it?
Metta: We can explore this sometime....
(If you are interested, Ton Haarmans [Chinmayo] has used Rawlinson's basic framework for organizing his Visions of Truth web site, a monumental repository of links to a wide variety of spiritual teachers. Chin provides a helpful overview of this scheme in the site's Introduction. You will note that AIA's link has been placed, I think fairly appropriately, in the "Cool/Unstructured -- Independent" category.)
Metta: The bottom line for me in terms of all the variations and the complexity of alternatives is that different temperaments are drawn toward different approaches, just as different teachers are drawn toward different modes of expression, based on their own unique, individual experiences.
This multiplicity can be confounding, initially, but ultimately I don't think this is a problem at all. In fact, it is really a blessing because it encourages the experiential recognition that the only "truth" we can ultimately trust is our own. Even if we surrender fully, body/mind/soul to a particular teacher, this decision is based on trusting our own innate judgment regarding the merits and wisdom of the teacher.
Victor: The real teacher is one's own awareness.
Metta: Exactly! (And, the life experience that emerge through this Awareness.)
Victor: I notice your style appears to be looking at what the student says, and then trying to steer them pointedly into recognition of their awareness.
Metta: (Smiling) Good observation, Victor, both in terms of the very important recognition of who the true teacher really is (I applaud that!), and the recognition of my "style." I'm convinced that we must begin where we are (i.e., where the student is), and the pointing I do is simply to encourage a recognition of what is already near and dear and familiar -- just unnoticed.
Victor: It seems so effortless and exactly right on your part.
Metta: Many thanks, Victor. Subjectively, this process does feel completely effortless and natural. At the same time, here/now there may be an especially good compatibility between our own preferred styles.
I had an opportunity last year to do a series of mentoring sessions in conjunction with a 2-day stint at the Austin Whole Life Expo. What became so invaluably clear to me is that what I had to offer spoke profoundly to some individuals, and it meant literally nothing to others who had a reaction of utter disbelief. (Kind of like, "Is this all there is to what you're doing?!") This was good confirmation of my theory that all we can ever do is offer who/what we are. Some will connect and find value, and others will go elsewhere -- wherever Life draws them.
Victor: Wonder why that is?
Metta: It all comes back to your original question, Victor, regarding the multiplicity of practices and the variations in individual temperaments. (My belief is that if a variety of paths cannot lead to the same Recognition, then the realization is not ultimate.)
Victor: So, I was looking at a few of the hundreds of books I have....
Metta: (Laughing) Your shelves, too, eh?
Victor: ...and just said, "What the heck! This is so meaningless without the experience."
Metta: (smiling) Meaningless? Yes and no. If this recognition points toward the importance of direct, immediate experience (the one we are already in), then it has served its purpose. For me, after the epiphany, all the books served as invaluable companions in navigating new and unfamiliar waters, as I began looking for words and language for something that had no boundaries.
Victor: Well, it helped over the years some.
Metta: Part of the power of the epiphany was recognizing that everything is indispensable! Nothing is extra or gratuitous. It all works together for good, in the end -- which of course is now.
Victor: Did it last?
Metta: Did what last?
Victor: The recognition, continually?
Metta: Oh, yes! The euphoria, of course, faded (it always does), but even this resurfaces every time I give attention to THIS.
The recognition itself is absolutely unavoidable and undeniable, even in the midst of our human miseries. There is an inescapable recognition that everything -- every book, event, person and encounter -- is an invaluable piece in the puzzle, in the larger mystery of how the Infinite is manifesting within this moment. It is all part of the miracle and the mystery.
Victor: So, do you just rest in the recognition and allow life to do as it happens?
Metta: Yes and no. You see, I am by no means beyond desires and preferences. I have them all! They've changed a bit since the epiphany, but part of the recognition was seeing that even desires have their place in the total scheme of things!
Some things make me happier than others, some things I prefer more than others, and suffering/pain is still suffering and pain. (There is no exemption from being human.) However, all of this now occurs against an invisible, solid backdrop. There are no spaces, no holes. Nothing's missing. My experience is that THIS is the fullness of what is.
Victor: Someone who grasps at their desires, and does not recognize. Is this the main difference?
Metta: Yes. I think the difference lies in somehow thinking that the fulfillment of a particular desire will bring lasting fulfillment, which of course it never will. Every desire, and the fulfillment of it, is bound by the limitations of the finite. What is missing when there is grasping after desires is the larger context -- the recognition of a larger Reality which contains all our movements toward and away from pleasure and pain.
Victor: So, do you do, and not worry about the results, but simply be with the doing?
Metta: Wish I could say that I didn't worry, but I'm a mom and at times I do worry about my daughter...and, then again, ultimately, I don't. It's odd. Hard to describe. The feelings still arise and, at the same time, there is a space within which all these feelings are contained. The identification has shifted now to the containing space, even though the feelings still arise within it. Does this make any sense at all?
Victor: Yes. They arise without locking up great gobs of energy.
Metta: Yes! Good point!
Victor: Our boxes lock up tons of energy.
Metta: Yes! Exactly! This is a great metaphor, Victor, and it touches on a couple of things I've been thinking/wondering about recently...speculating about how to describe my reactions to the arising of preferences and desires.
(1) The point you've raised reveals the energetic dynamic at play here. With attachments to beliefs, ideas, preferences, desires, our energy gets locked/tied up. And, when we don't allow this energy to flow through us, we eventually pay the price physically and emotionally.
Victor: Hey, people die for their boxes.
Metta: Indeed! We become trapped in and by them.
(2) This also touches on my understanding of what it means to say, in the Dzogchen tradition, that "passions" can be "self-perfected." (I must add that I'm making a huge leap here without traditional Dzogchen training.) In my case, I use "passions" in the general sense of preferences, desires, emotional reactions. My experience is that they are "self-perfected" when they arise in their "pure" form, without secondary emotions developing from them -- without secondary layers of energy being attached to them.
Victor: They are all impermanent, and merely rise and go away within the awareness/emptiness/luminosity.
Victor: This is not the situation for most people.
Victor: They allow the arising, and expend lots of energy before the going away.
Metta: Exactly. It has everything to do with our identification with the finite and the particular. Hence, the clinging, and the hesitancy to let go. Sometimes they resist the arising, itself, if it doesn't suit their liking! We all know that well, don't we?! (smiling)
Victor: Denial and stuff.
Metta: Yes, denial, and just plain old dislike -- dislikes based on preferences. It may be as simple as not preferring pain.
Victor: You have the real pain, plus the mental pain.
Metta: Exactly. I love the distinction Nisargadatta makes here: "Pain and suffering are only the body and mind screaming for attention." He goes on to elaborate that physical pain may be unavoidable. However, suffering (the secondary layer) is optional. Kind of like our popular phrase about misery being optional?
Victor: Those options are hell.
Metta: ...which of course is, itself, simply a choice.
Victor: Resting in awareness now....
Metta: Smiling with you....
Victor: You have helped me immensely these past few days....
Metta: Even today, when it seemed I tended to rattle on?
Victor: Your rattle is empty of secondary suffering.
Metta: (Humble gratitude.) Your listening, Victor, has been clear and open, as has been your inquiry. It has been a joy and a delight working with you during this intensive. You're so easy to track with in this process.
Victor: You are a creative person, and it's because creativity can only arise from the newness of timeless awareness. Thought cannot be creative.
Metta: Except as an expression of the larger Life out of which it arises.
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