Metta: John, shall we begin? We can start either with a question from you, or with a question from me -- whichever you prefer.
John: I have a question, but don't know how to phrase it. Ask me one.
Metta: I can, and I'm really interested in whatever is percolating for you right now. Would you like to begin just by sharing a few thoughts and ideas, and I'll see if I can tease a question out of it?
John: Between you and The Headless Way, I have come to a new realization, but it seems somehow limiting in that it doesn't jibe with what I thought I knew.
Metta: Please continue....What did you think you knew?
John: Not much.
Metta: LOL! Now that's a wise man.
John: ...but, it seems that enlightenment, or awakening, might be more than just what is present in my awareness.
Metta: Exactly. Of course it is.
Metta: What is present within your awareness is just one small -- very small -- finite fraction of the Infinite...a tiny bit that is showing up here and now. Awareness does not contain the Infinite; it is only a manifestation of it.
John: How does one become more aware?
Metta: Depends upon what you mean by "more aware." What does that mean to you, John?
John: Become more than I am now.
Metta: (Smiling) What are you now? And, why is that not enough?
John: A very small piece of awareness.
Metta: I beg to differ....But, I did not mean to interrupt. Were you going to say more?
John: No, how do you differ?
Metta: Ok. Let's go back to what I said earlier. I said it was the contents of your awareness that was tiny, not you. Awareness does not come in "pieces," small or large. Awareness is a spacious capacity to perceive, and the contents within it may vary tremendously.
You are not a small "piece" of Awareness. You are inseparable from it, and as far I can tell, I have not yet discovered the edges or limits of it. It would be impossible for me to say that Awareness is small. Only the contents of it can be measured.
John: It is hard for me to distinguish between awareness and content.
Metta: Ah, good! This is a very important recognition, John. I would like to expand on this, but before I do, I would like to loop back and see how the Headless Way and what you once knew fit into this inquiry?
John: The Headless Way is a new knowledge. I have suspected that reality was not as we described it to ourselves, but the Headless Way made it clear.
Metta: Made "it" clear....Reality clear?
John: Well, no, but clearer.
Metta: Good enough. Is the question now how your individual identity (or Awareness) fits into all of this?
John: Yes, one question, but more so, to click with me, it would have to be compatible with Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc.
Metta: Ah! A good, big challenge. The only way I could find any reconciliation between multiple traditions was to find what was absolutely true for me, in terms of my own immediate experience. Then, it was easier for me to recognize this truth as it was expressed in different traditions. This did not mean that all doctrine and dogma could be reconciled, but I could find a place within the traditions I have explored that was compatible with my own immediate experience.
Would that be sufficient for you, John? At least, initially?
Metta: Ok. Then let's start with the Headless Way. My experience of Douglas' genius is that he has found a way to reframe something so immediate and so intimate and so common (among all of us) that for the first time many of us can now see and recognize it! We can experience directly the "headlessness" he is describing, and this brilliant reframing provides a disarming way of seeing into the immediacy of the present moment.
Does this at all ring true for you, John, in terms of your experience of headlessness?
Metta: Ok. My take on it is this: the "headless" state he is describing is nothing other than the spacious Awareness I am describing. One and the same.
John: I agree.
Metta: Ok. So, to go back to your question, would it not be absurd to say, "I am a small piece of headlessness"?
John: Maybe, and it was the headless way which seemed to make me lose contact with a sense of oneness with the universe.
Metta: (Nodding) Please continue.
John: This is not sounding very clear.
Metta: No, I'm hearing you....Please continue....
John: I told you earlier that I had experienced a sense of presence, which was love. I also have experienced other 'peak' experiences which suggest that the traditions of religion and meditation are pointing in the right direction, but the headless way points more to a....or...to just plain nothing.
John: No, I have read one book, and done some of the exercises.
Metta: You now associate the experience of "nothing" that was evoked by the Headless Way with a loss of the sense of oneness and presence. Why do you make that connection, John?
John: You are very good, and I don't know.
Metta: My sense is this: the Headless Way has the capacity to open us to a dimension of experience that can feel dimensionless, even flat or empty. And, as you may be well aware it is not uncommon for people to come close to this extremely profound space and say, "What's up with this?" This is nothing. What's the appeal? Why should I be interested in this, and how could this possibly compare to the magnificence I have already experienced?"
Is this at all like what you have felt, John?
Metta: Ok. (Smiling) Then you're in a very good place! John, you are at a point -- a precious point -- of being able recognize a convergence between the two. We alluded to this briefly in the last Wednesday session. In my experience it is a matter of reconciling the profound experiences of Emptiness and Fullness.
My experience is that if we are willing to stay in -- and with -- this experience of "nothingness," we gradually (or suddenly) discover that everything is contained within it! All the presence and love and euphoria and joy and fulfillment one could ever seek is contained within this space. And we discover it by not withdrawing from it. In fact, this experiential reconciliation between Empty and Full is at the crux of experiencing reconciliation between different religious traditions, John. These questions all connect here, in this space.
John: The role of a teacher is to point the way.
Metta: Yes. And, all we can do it point. The discovery is yours: here/now, in the space that opens up before you, as you sit in the midst of THIS.
John: I am HERE waiting.
Metta: (Smiling) What are you waiting for, John? What do you want that is not here, now?
John: Reconciliation of empty and full.
Metta: (Smiling) THIS, our own immediate experience, is the reconciliation, John. Waiting for it is like waiting for Godot. He/It never arrives. The reconciliation shows up in the original question: the distinction between Awareness (the background of headlessness), and the content of consciousness (everything that shows up here and now). Both are here. Both provide an opportunity for us to experience Empty, and Full -- simultaneously.
Empty: All things are finite and limited. Forms will perish. Nothing we can point to, touch, hear, smell or taste will last. Everything is transitory. This is profound experiential lesson in Emptiness.
There is another Emptiness: the spacious space that contains all that is manifest....the "headlessness" and Awareness about which we have been speaking....
And, yet here is the miracle: in the midst of all this nothing, something appears. The Infinite takes form, and manifests within this field of Awareness. And even though things show up in finite form, even though they last only briefly, what an exquisite miracle this is! Even love shows up, in inexplicable and magnificent ways, and we can share it with one another, without limits....What greater fullness could there be?! And it is all right here, right now!
John: Except when it is not.
Metta: Yes, that is the taste of Emptiness.
John: But, I sense you are right.
Metta: In what sense, John?
John: Werner Erhart would say that you create your own world, and that you make it empty or full.
Metta: Yes, exactly. Please continue.
John: It seems to me that that is not enough, but I can't say much more right now.
Metta: That's ok. Then this is the gift of this moment to you -- this experience of "not enough." "Not enough" is an expression of subtle (or even profound) longing...a sense that something is still missing...that more is needed. I think for many of us it is easier, experientially, to recognize Emptiness than it is to recognize Fullness.
So the opportunity that lies before you, John, is to live and breathe this inquiry: "What is missing?"
You can either:
Metta: That is true fullness -- when Presence manifests even in the midst of apparent emptiness.
Metta: (Smiling) Headless, perhaps?
John: For sure.
Metta: Good place to be. Empty and Full -- Reconciled HERE.
Metta: Anything else you would like to share, John, before we open up for questions and reflections from others?
John: No, and thank you.
Metta: You are very welcome, John. You have provided me with very good food for thought and reflection.
In fact, I do have a postscript on the Headless Way. I don't know if it would be of value, but it occurred to me as we were exploring this earlier. Shall I share it now, or save it for later? Either is fine with me.
Metta: My experience of Douglas' work is that it can do one of 2 things. It can open us up to a profound experience of spaciousness (headlessness) or, it can leave us with a profound sense of individual isolation -- a feeling of being a point of consciousness trapped, as Douglas says inside a "meat body" with 2 eyes looking out at the world.
If you only experience the latter, and do not move into the former, it can be very unsatisfying. I don't know if you can relate to this at all, John, but it occurred to me that this might be a factor in your experiential sense of a loss of oneness.
John: Yes, I think that is my experience.
Metta: That is why I don't use the exercises myself. While they can trigger a profound breakthrough for some, they may also leave people feeling as if they are "trapped" inside a body, and we are so much more....
Christiana: Yes, first: Thank you John for this question, and Metta for your response. It flows with what I asked the other night. Between "empty" and "full", the appearance of dissonant energy so often occurs. Give me a moment to copy my question....Sorry.
Metta: No problem. John, are we ready to move on now?
John: Yes, please.
Metta: Yes, Christiana. Please continue.
Christiana: Sorry. Hit the return button too soon. What I'm looking at within all this are the personal inconsistencies...the personal subtle energy dissonance which keep showing up and being acted out in body/mind...fears, addictions, moods, et al. You speak of reconciliation, and I am currently doing deep inquiry into the nature of self-habits which seem to contradict the Word of deeper knowing. So, I wonder: is continuing to observe the behavior and inquire into it's roots enough?
Metta: Enough for what, Christiana? What is it that you are hoping for?
Metta: Part of this FULL reconciliation is allowing self-habits and knowing to exist side-by-side.
Christiana: Hmmm.. acceptance of the dross, eh?
Metta: Exactly. Acceptance of the human condition.
Christiana: Not enough here, Metta.
Metta: LOL! Not enough of what, dear Christiana?
Metta: Maybe that is the question for tonight? If we assume it is not here, we will not find it here.
Christiana: Knowing the taste of fullness, knowing the taste of emptiness, and always returning to the dross....
Xan: May I add a quick note?
Metta: Certainly, Xan.
Christiana: [I'm] weary of the human condition, I suppose.
Xan: Christiana, no one ever said it was easier to live in an awakened state.
Christiana: Find what, Metta?
Metta: Find whatever it is that there is not enough of. What is it? What is there not enough of?
Christiana: Awareness perhaps?
Metta: Ah! Not a big enough piece of it? (Smiling)
My experience is this: TRUE fullness, in all its magnificence, has to be able to contain all of the dross. It has to have a capacity great enough to encompass the entire human condition, with all its limitations and frustrations and miseries, or else it is not truly FULL.
To embrace That which is full is a matter of embracing everything that fullness contains. Our temptation is to settle for less...to settle for just the peaceful parts...for just the quiet, silent mind...or just the blissful moments of joy and love....However, Reality is all that -- and more.
Metta: Remember the 3rd pole? Awareness is the 3rd pole....It contains all of the extremes.
John: No, what is the 3rd pole?
Metta: John, this was a reference from an earlier chat with Christiana. I mentioned it simply as a key/trigger for her.
Christiana: Each paradigm seems to evoke a slightly different praxis...the acceptance of, lifting the needle of attention to the 3rd pole. How does that reconcile with self-observation? And, if I am taking up too much time, we can continue this at another time....
Metta: A quick response here/now, and then we'll share with others....You have named it, Christiana! "Lifting the needle of attention" is the process of self-observation! Observation without attachment to the objects of observation. Simply paying attention, and realizing that you are more than anything you can observe. You are, as close as we can say, the Awareness of all these experiences, both dross and refined.
Christiana: Thank you. I pass the baton.
Metta: Thank you, Christiana. John, a quick note about the 3 poles: In short, the first pole is all things we identify as good, positive, light, loving, trusting, etc. The second pole we identify as bad, negative, dark, hateful, fearful, etc. The 3rd pole is really not a pole at all, but the space that contains both.
Victor, any questions or reflections?
Victor: Yes. How about addictions --- whether to alcohol, drugs, or food? What is the relationship of emptiness/fullness/awareness to addiction? Is the addiction simply a futile pattern of searching for the emptiness/fullness/ awareness? Your thoughts on this? How to get out of these patterns?
Metta: Hmmm....Good question! This can be answered on many levels. It has been said that most alcoholics are disillusioned idealists. Maybe a gross over-generalization, but there may also be a nugget of truth to it. There is also, I believe a significant physical component in the dynamics of addiction that should not be ignored. In general, though, I tend to think that many addictive patterns are the result of frustrated seeking.
Ah! A 2-part question: "How to get out of them?" Recognize and address root causes -- both physical and psychological.
John: I saw 'Traffic' last night and thought that if awareness of Presence was available to everyone, no one would be an addict.
Metta: It is available, John....May I come back to this, since it is a very good point, after we take Ron and Xan's questions?
Anything else on this, Victor? I know this is just a cursory reply; it's just my quick "meat of the nut."
Victor: Not for now.
Metta: OK. Ron?
Ron: No question, just a reflection. When I did those experiments at Headless Way, there was a real shift when I saw that everyone was inside me. And every time that I remember, I feel that shift again. It is the most pleasing sensation to know that all that I held at arms length was always the one thing that I truly wanted. That fullness....
Metta: Beautiful! Please continue....
Ron: When everyone is inside me, I am my brother's keeper.
Metta: Ah, yes! Even Tony!
Ron: Brothers and sisters...even Tony.
Metta: (Smiling) Yes, the shift you've described is the breakthrough: seeing/experiencing Awareness or Headlessness as the space within which all things / beings appear. Then, all the apparent separateness is just an appearance only.
Metta: (Smiling) Thank you, Ron....Anything more that you would like to share, Xan?
Xan: Yes, I have a reflection from my experience on a theme that has been expressed tonight. In those times when I have reacted to Emptiness with a sense that "This is not enough" or "This is not what I want," I discovered that I was hovering at the edge, so to speak....
Xan: Or there have been moments of terror in that "edge" place, or an automatic pulling back....
Xan: And, I also discovered that once I saw what I was holding onto, a past experience, a sense of maintaining control or whatever, and let that drop, that something -- or everything -- dissolved. Incompleteness disappeared....Questions vanished....Fear existed no more, and it was obvious to me that emptiness is full, and I am full of the indescribable, as the indescribable. There have been moments when I hungered for some certain experience of Grace, but that hunger, I found, was my attempt to maintain the illusion that I am in control, that I should be the determiner of how Existence gives itself to my consciousness at any moment, and I have learned to love Surrender....Giving up my ideas, my expectations, my mind level of expression entirely into this Silence. So I empathize with living at the edge of emptiness...and with giving up that holding pattern for the sake of diving in.
Metta: Beautiful, beautiful, Xan....
Victor: Xan, how do you actually surrender?
Xan: I see how I am holding on, and stop..., absorbing my attention into this Silent Presence. It is a slight shift of awareness only.
But, may I take one more brief moment?
Xan: Someone asked their teacher "How do I take care of this Awareness?" Teacher responded: "You are like a baby asking how to take care of its mother. This that you have discovered has always cared for you and the entire universe. Let it."
Victor: Thanks, Xan! That was great!
Metta: Lovely....The "edge of emptiness" is such a compelling image, Xan....
Metta: It evokes what I was pointing toward when I mentioned to John that this was a "precious point." And, the image of Awareness as Mother invites relaxation into a caring far more vast and full than anything we could imagine.
John: ...and satisfies my craving for presence.
Metta: Ah!....Delightful! I am so glad....
Christiana: Victor (earlier) expressed my question. And you reply "Recognize and address root causes, both physical and psychological. And, I suppose this is a facet of what I mean by "self inquiry." Yet, there is so much essential energy blocked by these bindings, and I guess I wonder if simple observation is enough to free the energy? Xan seems to have addressed this beautifully, with what I have known through "slipping out of the storyline." I suppose perhaps that is the reconciliation...or, the sudden lack of a need for one. Thank you all.
Metta: It is hard to miss or overlook the fullness when it shows up this way, in this sharing.
Victor: Does awareness arise as the son of the emptiness (the mother)?
Metta: Is that your experience, Victor?
Victor: Sorta. There is nothing; then there is somethin. Or, the somethins are arising outta the nothins....
Metta: Yes. The Taoists say that the Tao (Nameless Reality) is the Mother of the 10,000 things. And the Native Americans describe 3 miracles:
Xan: The wave arises temporarily from the ocean, but is still water.
Metta: I am aware that it is getting late, and I offered John an opportunity to touch on his last question before we close. John, would you like to return to your question about the availability of Awareness/Presence, or to another, or close?
John: I would like to have Presence available always, so why not now?
Metta: My experience is that it is always available, John. We just do not recognize it as such because we have specific expectations about how -- when -- and in what form -- it will show up. When we surrender those expectations, as Xan has described, then we open ourselves up to the possibility of seeing THIS as Presence...as the fullness of Grace...Grace made manifest, here and now...
In the context of your original question: "I saw 'Traffic' last night and thought that if awareness of Presence was available to everyone, no one would be an addict,"... my assumption is that it is our seeking after Grace and Presence in specific forms that keeps us from recognizing it here and now.
John: I like that.
Metta: Good. I prefer to close with some small measure of satisfaction! This is simply my expectation and preference! (Smiling)
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