All the frantic energy of trying to figure it out, trying to understand and learn and practice–all of it left me in one fell swoop. I loved the whooshing sound it made on its way out, hehe! And here I am, empty and open, happily left with really only one insight, and it’s not a big one.
I am grateful to Eckhart Tolle. I read the Power of Now about four or five years ago, and it wasn’t my first reading of it, but at the time of that particular reading I was in emotional pain and therefore open. What I got from Tolle was that there is a way to be where life can be loving and not fearful.
The first six months after that initial insight were heady–I decided not to work, I traveled, I wrote, I had a lot of energy.
But soon I realized that Tolle cannot help me beyond the basic message. Tolle’s enlightenment was accidental. He’s good at telling me what it is to be unawakened (ego, identification with the mind, fear); and he’s good at telling me what it is to be awakened (presence, acceptance), but not very good at telling me how to get there.
I turned to others, like Nisargadutt, Ramana, Krishnamurti, Jed Mckenna, Adyashanti, and more. I learned and processed. I simplified my life down to the barest. I isolated myself.
I learned to look, to observe. I learned how to release–releasing is a beautiful, stupidly-simple way to let go, so simple that some of the people I’ve worked with refuse to try it because of its simplicity. And that was a good lesson for me–that’s it’s easy to dismiss the simple.
I had learned to rely on myself. There is no help in spirituality. Today, I understand why this is–it’s not that spirituality is good or bad, it’s that it is no different from any other human endeavor over many thousands of years–it’s no different from morality, religion, philosophy, psychology, self-improvement and the rest of it.
When there is a basic fear of life, a basic sense of unrightness, it really doesn’t matter what knowledge we gain or what practices we practice or what beliefs we fervently believe. Whatever it is, it cannot and has not succeeded, because it’s all contaminated by this basic fear of life.
But at that time I shunned spirituality for a different reason. From what I saw, spiritual people just run around in circles, adorning weird spiritual personalities, insistent on using strange words, firmly attached to their suffering. I was already pretty good at running around in circles; I didn’t see the point of learning new circles, hehe!
After four years of this I was in a relatively good place. I was at peace, I had released depression and anxiety. I had released worry.
The basic feeling of unrightness persisted. This basic fear of life was still there.
About two months ago, on a morning walk, it struck me.
It’s very simple, so simple that a ten year-old can understand this, and some day perhaps, this will be taught to all ten year-old’s.
The only difference between Eckhart Tolle and me is that Eckhart Tolle has gotten rid of his basic fear of life and I have not.
This is the only difference.
It isn’t enlightenment or self-realization because that’s already innate. It’s not the mind or ego–the ego is not real, it’s just thoughts and emotions and beliefs about the self, not inherently bad. What makes the ego troublesome is this basic fear of life I have.
This recognition–that the only problem is this basic sense of unrightness–is nothing new. It’s the first thing the Buddha said. He called it dukkha. It’s in the speakings of all the awakened. It’s not that deep, you only have to look inside to see it.
The revelation was not that there is a basic, prevalent, persistent fear in me; the revelation was that this is the only relevant revelation.
Because everything else is then uncertain. Everything else that I do, say, feel, believe, practice is uncertain, because it is driven by this basic off-centeredness.
In the absence of this basic fear, all there is is love. Anthony de Mello said love is the absence of fear. I didn’t quite understand it then.
How can there not be love? We all love life, we are self-aware, we can experience, we are aware that we are alive–how can there not be love and gratitude and compassion and acceptance, and all the other stuff that we love to talk about but are totally confused about because we’re tinged with this basic off-center fear?
This is simple, obvious, subtle, big.
At this point, I recognized that the only problem is this basic fear of life. I recognized it’s all about looking, observing, watching. I recognized the only thing I know for certain is that I am self-aware. I recognized I have to rely on myself. And, happily, spirituality is no longer in the way.
So the only question which remained was how to get rid this basic fear of life.
This is where John Sherman comes in. I was completely ready for him. He cleared it up instantly.
I had believed that what Nisargadutt and Ramana were saying was to perform an active inquiry, some sort of effortful figuring out to see who I truly am.
It’s a passive looking at my sense of what it feels/looks/listens/tastes like to be me.
I won’t say much about the actual looking, because John Sherman is much better at explaining it. And I haven’t proved to myself that this actually works yet.
But I am very happy to be back at square one, empty and open and light.