What causes emotional suffering? It’s the desire for something to be other than it is. If you feel sadness, you’d rather feel joy. If you feel fear, you’d prefer calmness. If you feel pain, you would choose instead to feel pleasure. And who wouldn’t prefer to feel good? But the thing is, this desire to feel good, is also what creates the feeling of bad.
Without preference between two extremes, there can be no suffering. Without preference, the polarities between two opposing emotions are neutralized. They’re rendered ineffective and harmless. Pain can become pleasurable and pleasure can become painful, which shows that they are actually one, it only appears as if they are two. But when they’re seen as one, then preference loses it’s meaning. There’s no longer a choice, because there aren’t two options.
Moreover, when emotions lose their pull over you, then you stand beyond them, and undisturbed, regardless of what they may appear to be doing. You can feel fear or calmness to their fullest, and yet accept them both equally with open arms. You don’t wish for one and reject the other when you view them as the same. Neither can affect you if you accept them both as one.
The reason why this is important to understand, is because emotions are what give false stories their allure and strength. It’s the glue, what holds them together and makes it seem impossible to break through, or to let go of. Without being gripped and carried along by emotion, an idea is just a bunch of dry words that will crumble under scrutiny.
When you aren’t afraid of feeling fear, then you can look at a story with clarity, regardless of what emotions may arise, because you aren’t hooked, fooled, or scared off from investigating the story when big bad emotions show their face. You see it as a mere little child throwing a temper tantrum, and are possibly even amused at the sight of it, rather than overwhelmed and thrown off from your inquiry into a story’s reality.
What does the word ‘ignis’ bring to mind? Well, unless you understand Latin, the meaning would not have been understood and thus no correlating image could be created. The word would have absolutely no ability to affect you, since it might as well be gibberish.
But if I asked you, “What does the word ‘fire’ bring to mind?”, now you understand! Now I’m speaking your language. Now, likely you’re receiving an image in your imagination of what a fire is, perhaps referencing memories where you experienced a fire, how you feel about it, maybe just a generic image of fire, or a collection of related concepts. Yet, the word ‘fire’ has no heat, and even the image you conjure up, can not burn anything. An actual fire, will burn, regardless of what you call it, even without a name, and regardless of the accuracy of your imagined depiction.
What does the word ‘I’ bring to mind? You’re likely receiving a conceptual image of what the word ‘I’ means. There might be a bunch of memories referenced, maybe a collection of related ideas, feelings, thoughts, objects, words, or a generic image of what an ‘I’ is. But the word ‘I’ has no life of it’s own, and neither is the image or definition which you conjure up, alive, or what it truly is. But what an ‘I’ actually is, lives, regardless of what it’s called, even without being called an ‘I’, and regardless of whatever image is conjured up.
What if you entirely forgot the word ‘I’ and it’s meaning? You wouldn’t die, you wouldn’t disappear, you’d just have no ability to conjure up an idea of yourself. In that case, the image of who you are would disappear, but you’d be unaffected, remaining what you are...alive, aware, and present. There would just be no ability to confuse what you ARE, with an IDEA of what you are.
What is attempting to be referenced by the word ‘I’, is not the conceptual image that comes to mind, but your own nonconceptual presence, which exists regardless of what word is used to reference this, and regardless of whatever idea that comes to mind in order to explain that word.
Sitting on the beach meditating, watching the waves roll in and the sun setting. I really was just wanting a peaceful experience that would fill my heart with joy and to feel one with nature. It was beautiful. It was perfect.
I was enjoying it, that is, until a couple entered the water, making out passionately with each other, and ruined my serene vista of the waves rolling in and the sun setting. Next thing you know, some parents set up camp right next to me. Their kids chasing each other screaming obnoxiously. I felt like they were all ruining the serenity of this moment!
I thought to myself, “They obviously don’t realize they’re trampling under foot the delicate beauty of this present moment!” I tried in vain to ignore their presence which I felt was disrupting the peace, which they seemed totally oblivious to.
But then it dawned on me, “Wait a second. Who am I to say that they are ruining this moment? Perhaps it’s not them who are imposing upon this moment, but me! I am saying it should not be this way, but another. I am not allowing what is, to be as it is.”
With that, instantly, I found the beauty and serenity I had been looking for. It wasn’t in the waves or the sunset, it was in the acceptance of what was happening in that moment, and not fighting it by wishing it were somehow other than it was, thinking it would be better if it were more in line with my idea of perfection.
From there, I looked at the children playing and felt joy, and looked at the affectionate couple and felt love. And it was perfect.
Whatever we happen to feel, is a byproduct of our thoughts, a visceral manifestation of our beliefs. If we believe certain thoughts, they may cause us to feel angry, sad, frustrated, or afraid, because those sensations are the tangible qualities of these thoughts. But if we believe we are what’s seeing, regardless of what’s seen, then we naturally feel open and receptive, because these are the characteristics of seeing, being felt experientially.
Seeing doesn’t judge, doesn’t hate, doesn’t fear, doesn’t fight, doesn’t feel limited in any way. Seeing has no need to be enlightened, it itself is the light. Whatever is being experienced, is simply being seen. It’s only later that the mind comes in and forms ideas about what was seen, whether it was good or bad, right or wrong. But identified as what’s seeing, even negative thoughts which generate suffering can be welcomed, while still remaining completely open, receptive and at peace. In this way, these suffering beliefs, these ideas of limitation, have the space and freedom to be fully experienced, and having fully expressed themselves, have run their course and dissolve on their own.
This could be called love or compassion, even though seeing didn’t do anything special, just what it always does, sees openly and impartially all that arises. All appearances, whether it’s the body, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions, they arrive on the stage, do their little dance in the spotlight, and once finished bows down in gratitude for your attention, then proceeds to depart from the stage. Yet you have remained what you are and have been the whole time, that which is seeing. By being so, you provide an essential part in the play of consciousness, because without an audience to bare witness, there could be no play.
During the night, you dream you’ve lost your job, then your house, then your family. You’re living homeless on the street and develop a drinking problem to cope with your tragedy. But then, suddenly, you wake up in your comfy bed to the phone ringing, and your spouse tells you it’s your manager asking if you can come in today.
Do you start looking for a job, or seek counseling for your imagined alcohol addiction? Of course not! So what changed? What happened to all of your problems? When you wake, you realize it was only a dream. When you see the cause was imagined, you realize so are the effects, and simply let it go.
The same happens when we realize that this life is no different from a dream. While dreaming, we’re naively identified with the body, it’s activities, problems, and all the worry over outcomes of events. That is, until we wake up and realize these ideas had only been imagined. Then we cease being troubled by our dreamt up narratives of what happened in the past, or is happening now, or will happen in the future. We just simply let it go. It’s understood that nothing which happens in the dream, can define or affect who we are that has awakened from the dream.
“I know that I know nothing.” If one is looking for truth, then we must empty ourselves of our assumptions and beliefs. What we think we know, is the only thing which actually stands in the way. The minute we think we know something, is the very moment truth is lost. It’s an attempt to explain what can’t be explained, and then imagining we’ve succeeded. All that we successfully understood was our fabricated concept, and not reality.
To know we are clueless, is all we need to know. Only then can truth be revealed, because it isn’t something which is conjured up in the mind, but originates in the experience of simply being. Being never needed to be translated into concepts in order to be experienced. To experience is a far richer way of knowing, with nothing lost in translation.
Our being is something that’s always being experienced, and so there’s no need to look somewhere else or to some distant future to find this. The moment we give up trying to comprehend our present being through concepts, is the moment we understand it directly through our senses. Once this is understood, we’ll see that the knowledge we once thought was sacred, is just a bunch of rotting garbage, and will gladly throw it out in exchange for truth.
‘A’ is both a letter of the alphabet and a word. ‘I’ is both a letter and a word. Why is no one talking about how to free ourselves from the tyranny of ‘A’? It’s because no one confuses themselves as being this. There’s no identity built up around the word ‘A’. If there were an identity built around it, there would be countless retreats, self-help books and counselors to help us improve our poor definition of an ‘A’. How identifying with a word/idea creates so many unnecessary issues!
But then there’d be those who would question this, “What the hell is an ‘A’ anyways? Why does it need improving?” They’d discover it’s just a word, an idea. In which case it would lose it’s meaning and relevance.
Just as you understand you aren’t an ‘A’, do you also understand that you’re not an ‘I’?
Just as you can decide to not open your mouth to speak, what if you realized that you can also choose not to speak thoughts? What would happen if you no longer had this constant stream of mental chatter going on all day long, commenting on every experience? You’d then see things as they are, rather than through the story you were making up about it. You’d soon realize that absolutely everything you had been telling yourself had nothing to do with reality, but was heavily engaged in delusion.
That is the moment of awakening, to realize that no story that you create, can capture reality as it is. Understanding this, there’s no desire to go back to creating and believing made-up stories that can’t actually explain the truth of what you are. Not only is the idea of personhood given up, but also of being things like consciousness, bliss, awareness, The Self, Brahman, God, these all are also just concepts which serve no purpose once one realizes that stories are not needed in order to be what you are.
Just as a fire can’t burn itself, it burns only that which is not it, neither can knowing know itself, but only that which is not it. Nothing that is known, is you, or real. Identity, stories, judgements, prejudices, assumptions, ideas and beliefs, these are all dead wood. So throw them in the fire and watch silently as all that’s false goes up in smoke.