As the truth seeker travels along the spiritual path, once genuine earnestness and humility have taken the reins, an inevitable “stage” of practice soon appears on the horizon.
It doesn’t matter if your practice is yoga, chanting or prayer, service work, compassion and loving-kindness or a particular meditation technique learned through a particular tradition. In fact, if you are someone who considers yourself a Seeker of Truth but not at all a spiritual-type, you are still likely devoted to some purposeful endeavor that will, in time, bring you to the vista of this horizon.
Like me, you have probably incorporated different forms of spiritual practice into your life over a period of years. If we were to compare our journeys, we might uncover certain markers of “the path” that we share, while others would differ according to our unique inclinations and needs as well as history, culture and geography. Our world is a rich arena of diverse activities that illuminate, and are simultaneously shaped by, a deep human inquisitiveness about the nature of existence paired with the built-in desire for contentment and peace.
Most Seekers of Truth are well familiar with a persistent feeling of longing that can often accompany our practice activity. Longing is the product of a belief in something missing or lacking. A practice infused with longing makes elusive the profound ease and fulfillment of simply being. When earnestness and humility are brought to bear on the practitioner’s sense of longing, the possibility that practice will finally become about meeting the elephant in the room arises.
Conviction is also a necessary ingredient.
Through an unfolding love of direct self-inquiry, the Truth Seeker begins to maturely address the eternal issue of the spiritual search.
Until that time, the elephant in the room is this: I haven’t yet focused my practice on ascertaining the real nature of the practitioner, which is the only thing that ultimately matters.
Before practice ever arose in my life, “I” was a pre-established fact; without me practice cannot occur. I am here, now. In other words, what is it, exactly, that’s practicing? Who is on the so-called spiritual path? What is doing yoga and meditating, praying and chanting, acting with loving-kindness and being of service? Who or what am I?
What is it that’s here? When I say the word “I,” what does this word actually refer to?
One whose practice isn’t yet addressing these questions remains more interested in a form of practice than in finding out the truth. At this stage, mind will sometimes suffer less than when it’s suffering more—a persuasive and temporary source of longing-free living. What lingers is the subtle postponement of a blessed, wondrous, ongoing recession into effortless being, which is the original ground of all intelligent action and our very birthright. Without intimate and honest inquiry, a person is unable to just sit.
Self-inquiry is an utterly pragmatic, empirical investigation. This practice admits none of the bells and whistles of any tradition, lineage, ritual or technique. The most potent investigative tool is your willingness to be still inside during your precious just sitting time, avoiding the regurgitation of concepts accumulated mentally from reading and learning. If you bring into your meditation the conviction, “I am here” (you can easily double-check in an instant that it’s true—not as a thought or feeling but as “hereness” itself), will you then keep quiet and say nothing about what this is?
How is saying or doing something going to make you more here?
Cultivating familiarity with our all-inclusive, undivided, infinitely available inner silence is authentic self-inquiry and the flowering of meditation. Our “path” is now one of confirming what all of the great saints and sages have been so compassionately pointing out all along. Our task is to go beyond any information that can be known to the thinking mind about what they were speaking of, by according in an immediate, spontaneous way with the absolute freedom of our own being, moment by moment.
Who but you, yourself could be the legitimate authority regarding what you are?
If I identify as a Truth Seeker or anything else, by what power can I think this? Within what does my imagination appear here and now? Into what does it disappear? Intent on finding out, can I be silent in meditation and look directly, leaving my looking uncontaminated by what I may or may not imagine? Can I remain wholly as I am, discovering truth to be another word for what sits on my chair or cushion? Can I non-conceptually express what it is that has never for an instant been missing or lacking?
Open, unconditioned, earnest “looking” in sitting meditation—from the deepest conviction and humility, without imagining oneself—is practicing timeless self-inquiry. The palpable result is strong abidance in one’s true nature, which is normal, natural peace.
This magnificent reality is the ever-present essence of all appearance and change. What meditates (and does everything else!) is myself as I am and always have been.
Devoid of postponement and longing, in love with our real identity, now we can really sit.
Here, there is no elephant to look at—no meeting of two things, at all.
No seeker and no sought. Before, during and after “I,” this alone is.
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Assist Ed: Miciah Bennett / Ed: Catherine Monkman