“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” ~ Buddha
As we begin to view the path, we realize that things are indeed out of our control and that what comes, does so in a way that reflects the natural, shifting flow of life.
In meditation, wisdom and insight appear of their own accord, without a “how” or a “why” attached to them. A series of feelings and images settles. There is more space around the things that enter into and step out of our lives. Internally, things begin to shift and we open up to dimensions of being that we could not have understood or experienced before. It’s not that life is changing on an external level, but rather, I—you—we, are changing ourselves. We are going into a region that is beyond knowing.
I remember beginning to let go of who I thought I was in meditation, and having a sense of spaciousness permeate my daily experience: during strolls around the park, while jumping into the Pacific Ocean, in walking miles and miles through snow-capped mountains and down long ridges. It was as if a barrier had been lifted between the world and me, and there was a sudden meeting of sorts between the two of us. I could feel the calm spaciousness reverberating through the last streaks of sunlight on a warm evening, or out of the palm of a waving hand, and these instances had an effect on my opening.
Putting down my mind, there wasn’t anything to know in those moments. I had nothing to guard against or to believe in, and I began to feel a sense of freedom that came with the territory of letting go of knowing, of my opinions, and judgments. These experiences laid a foundation for me to expand outwards, to bring a sense of openness into the sticky arena of family disputes, critiques, successes, and failures.
With practice, I found it interesting to enter into realms I deemed uncomfortable, being okay with the fact that I was uncomfortable, and that everything was perfect the way it was. There wasn’t any reason for it to be un-perfect, other than the observation that my mind did not approve, and that I was fighting against the inevitable moment. I noticed how I would think up ways to get out of a situation or to react defensively, but when I didn’t know, I saw the comedy behind such cyclical behavior. In not knowing who I was or how or why things were, there was a weightlessness that allowed me to flow with the moment and greet the world intimately.
“Sickness and medicine correspond to each other. The whole world is medicine. What am I? ~ Zen Master Yunmen
What am I? It seemed that my knowing, my trying to have an idea about how things should be, was the very barrier or affliction that prevented me from experiencing an inherent sense of connection to what is.
The notion of knowing twists into more complex emotional realms, into what we force, rationalize, and falsely support. I often found myself being “okay” with moments that weren’t okay for me. I would don social masks or force something without deeply accepting it. I would pretend to know. There was some rigidity in these moments and I could feel it in my body.
When I brought Bodhidharma’s “I don’t know” into these moments, I found that I had been suppressing a great deal of pain, pretending that things were “fine,” to conform with what I thought was bearable and necessary. This is the same fundamental logic that keeps lovers locked in physically abusive relationships, children tight-lipped over past incidents, and religious fanatics’ congealed and hardened opinions unshaken.
This way of thinking manifested itself in my created world. What I knew and how I thought the world should be, fed a perpetual state of conflict between reality and my little view of the world. Practicing not knowing and acceptance of the present might remove this subtle conflict within the mind and allow it to expand into this.
Not knowing then isn’t rigid and intellectually based on one side or languid and blasé on the other because there are no sides or distinctions. All that is left is this moment as it is. Spiritually, going beyond knowing is openness that forgets it is even open—it is just empty space. Learning how to bring this natural, accepting behavior into our daily lives is a key element for our path.
Here are some basic points to remember throughout the day. These principles bring us back to being. And to be, means to go beyond the known, the confines of the ego—to see the mental cages we create.
The goal: Consciousness – touching the inner Self & thus, no-goal
The Way: turning in, witnessing
The teachers: Buddha, the Masters, and many others
The ultimate truths: You are the way. Follow intently but then let go.
Getting in touch with, or embodying the Self, through turning in, has much less to do with the small mind than what lies beneath it. We are working on uncovering our Selves. We are the goal, and at the same time, we are the path. They are one in the same and the steps above, at some point, fold into each other. The process, walking the path, means transcending the mind.
There isn’t an intellectual blueprint that involves trying or striving, but a natural one grounded in letting go. This seems slightly counter-intuitive, and it is. We are getting in touch with our true nature—what is already present and constant—our essence. Our nature, pure being, requires getting down to the basics, that which feels simple, peaceful, balanced, and leads to “oneness.” Essentially, what is already right here.
“Look, and it can’t be seen. Listen, and it can’t be heard… You can’t know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life. Just realize where you come from: this is the essence of wisdom.” ~ Tao te Ching
Editor: Kate Bartolotta