- Ramana Maharshi
Are you breathing?
Are sounds appearing?
Are thoughts coming and going?
Are feelings in the body happening?
Could it be that you are already awake?
Could it be that you were never actually asleep?
This is all there is.
What's happening is all that's happening.
Pretty damn obvious right?
And yet you believe that you are an individual who experiences life. An individual who is somehow separate from life. But is there really anyone here experiencing life, or is there just life happening, to and for no-one? Just life seeing itself, hearing itself, tasting and touching itself? Just this spontaneous present appearance? Just the dance of life, in love with itself?
Notice: Everything that happens happens right here.
Notice: Sounds come and go, effortlessly. There's nothing you need to do, or give up doing, for this to be. Sounds simply happen. They arise spontaneously in this aliveness. They appear here.
Feelings in the body happen. Perhaps a tightness in the chest. Perhaps a rumbling in the stomach. Sensations appear and disappear. They arise and fall away.
And there is something here that gently notices all of that.
Is there a sense of a presence that sits 'behind' everything, watching everything?
Has it always been there?
Is there the sense of something here that is already aware of sounds coming and going?
Something that is not really a 'something' at all, because it is not part of that which comes and goes?
Could that 'something' be the no-thing that allows every-thing to be?
Notice: feelings in the body simply appear in presence. Simply, effortlessly, ordinarily, they appear.
And thoughts too. Thoughts come and go. See how they arise, linger a while, and pass. And there is something here that watches silently as all thoughts come and go. All the thoughts in the world come and go in this presence.
Something here is already free from all thoughts. Something here is already liberated from the entire story that thought has constructed about "me and my life". Something here is already free from "me and my problems", "me and my spiritual seeking", "me and my difficulties", "me and my successes and failures". There is something here that is already free from past and future. Something that is already free from "you".
"You" are just a bundle of stories, arising presently. What you are cannot be touched by any of those stories.
Notice: sounds come and go. Clouds in the sky come and go. Cars and trees and people come and go. Smells and tastes come and go. Feelings in the body come and go. Thoughts come and go. An entire world comes and goes. And there is something here that is not touched by any of that coming and going. There is something here that never enters into the stream of coming and going, cause and effect, time and space. There is something here that is already totally, radically free.
There is a freedom here that does not come and go.
Could this freedom be identical with what you are?
Is there really an inside and an outside? Or is that just another thought, another concept that comes and goes?
Notice: sounds in the room come and go. Bodily feelings come and go. Thoughts come and go. None of these are 'inside' or 'outside'. They are just happenings. 'Inside' and 'outside' are just more labels that appear. 'Inside and outside' is just another story that comes and goes in this awareness.
Prior to the story of 'inside and outside' can anything really be inside or outside?
That bird singing. Is it happening inside of you, or outside of you? Is there really any division there, or is that just another creation of thought? Come back to the bird singing. Is there really an inside and outside, or is there just the bird singing? Is there even a 'bird' that's outside of you, or is there just the singing?
Everything seems to arise within presence, within awareness, within consciousness, within being; you can give it a million different names. But should we really call it 'awareness' or 'consciousness' at all? Doesn't that suggest that there is something there that is separate from everything else? How can we speak about it when it's not an 'it' at all?
Should we even speak about it?
Notice: you have no way of separating yourself from what you are seeing, touching, hearing. Awareness-presence-consciousness-being seems to mingle with everything that you see, hear, touch, taste. So much so that it seems to be identical with everything that arises.
Presence is not separate from the sounds in the room, from the feelings in the body, from the thoughts that arise and fall away. In fact, presence is the sounds, presence is the feelings, presence is the thoughts that arise. It is all a play of presence, a play of consciousness, a play of being, the play of the divine.
Can you find anything - anything at all - that separates you from the sound of that bird singing? From that feeling in the stomach? From these presently-arising thoughts?
You have no way of separating yourself from life.
So, who are you? Are you the sounds in the room? Well no, you might say; you are aware of sounds, so you are not those sounds. Are you feelings in the body? No, they arise and fall away, and there is something here that does not fall away when they fall away. Are you any of the thoughts that arise? No, you are aware of them, so you are not them. They come and go. Everything does.
There seems to be something here that is already free from the world of passing forms. There seems to be something here that remains when everything else has come and gone. A 'peace that passes all understanding'. An openness that is already open and never closed up. A gentle seeing that welcomes everything as it is born and dies.
You are not sounds, smells, thoughts, feelings. But it would be equally true to say that you are those sounds, smells, thoughts and feelings.
Non-duality does just not mean "not duality". It also includes apparent duality. It is not duality, but it is also duality, because it is everything.
You are everything that arises. And, at the same time, you are nothing, because you are also the wide open space that holds everything. You are everything, but because you are aware of everything, you cannot be any of the things of which you are aware. Nothing, everything. Everything, nothing.
And so that bird singing over there. You are not that, because you are aware of that. But at the same time, you have no way of separating yourself from that. At the same time, you are that.
The bird sings, and you are the bird singing. The bird sings, and that is you. How intimate this is!
And notice, even these are just more thoughts that arise. I am nothing, I am everything. I am nobody. I am somebody. Self, no self. Me, no me. Just thoughts. What are those thoughts trying to capture?
Forget the words. Going on present evidence, what is clear? Is it clear that you are no-thing, you are the empty space, the vast openness in which an entire cosmos arises? And yet, because that spaciousness can in no way be separated from everything that arises, you are everything too? Don't believe me. I don't want you to believe me. Come back to what's actually happening, right now. And there is no other time!
A bird sings. Aliveness dresses up as a bird singing, and as the one who hears the bird singing.
Upon hearing the bell ringing, the Zen master said "there is no bell, and no I, just the ringing."
No bird, no I, just the singing.
Notice that what we are pointing to is very ordinary and everyday. Nothing special. Just sounds, thoughts, feelings happening. Just life happening, as it is happening. What is, as it is. A bird sings, a dog barks. Just that, and nothing more.
Do you believe that there is an event called 'awakening' that will suddenly transform everything? An experience called 'enlightenment that will come along and solve all of your problems? An 'energetic shift' or 'transformation of consciousness' that will strike you if you're lucky enough or dedicated enough? A 'falling away of the I' that will happen one day, if you just wait long enough?
Who told you that? Why did you believe them? Didn't that just lead to feelings of inferiority? To the sense that you weren't good enough? To more seeking?
Notice, that all of these stories are just thoughts arising in this ever-present awakeness. All beliefs are just that: present thoughts. The beliefs and concepts about awakening, about spirituality, nonduality, Advaita, enlightenment – all of these arise and fall away in what you are, which cannot be touched by any belief.
You see, there is something here that is already awake, and has no need for any 'future event' to be so. This awakeness, this aliveness is what you already are. You are not asleep, you are awake! And this aliveness is not separate from everything. It is not separate from the world. You could so far as to say that this awakeness is the world in its entirety. You are the world, and the world is you, something which Krishnamurti often repeated.
There is only now (and of course even 'now' is just another idea.) So who cares if you were 'awakened' yesterday? Who cares if you'll be 'awakened' tomorrow? There is only now. And this is the only awakeness there is.
If there is any awakening, it is here and now. If there is any awakening, it is this.
This is life, awake to itself.
You are the awakening. You are life seeing itself. Meeting itself in a million different forms, and delighting in that.
Notice, there is nothing to awaken from. And nobody there who could do that awakening. The person who would awaken, or not, is just a thought-story, arising here. The person and all their seeking, all their suffering, all their problems, is just a huge bundle of thoughts arising in this ever-present awakeness. "You" are just a story.
That is why, ultimately, nobody "notices" this. There is nobody there who "sees" this. Nobody who is awakened, nobody who is enlightened. Nobody there who thinks, breathes, hears, smells. Everything just happens but there is nobody there doing any of it. Ultimately, this life has no centre. There is only life happening, but to no-one.
The thought "I see" cannot itself see. The thought "I hear" cannot hear a thing. The individual is only an apparent individual.
And yet this is not about rejecting those stories. This is not about rejecting the apparent individual. Notice that nothing could ever be rejected in this awakeness, because this awakeness is everything that arises. Notice that any rejection would just be something else happening in this awakeness.
Even the appearance of the individual is welcome here. This intimacy rejects nothing.
This is already awake. This is already enlightened. Can you see how enlightenment has nothing to do with a separate person becoming something?
Enlightenment does not exist outside of a thought story about it.
Enlightenment. Literally: to en-lighten. To shine light upon. Notice that everything is already enlightened. The light of awareness is already shining upon everything, allowing everything to be. Allowing everything to arise and dissolve exactly when it does, and not a moment before.
Breathing happening. Heart beating. Hunger in the belly. Cars beeping their horns.
Notice: there is a perfection here that could never be reached by a seeking mind. Perfection because it couldn't be any other way. A perfection that includes all apparent imperfection. Only thought would say "this should or could be otherwise". Beyond that story, this is as it is. And it is enough.
I am describing the state you are already in. And there is no other state. (Or if there is, it is something that comes and goes in this. All 'experiences', all 'states', all 'events' arise and dissolve in this. This is the stateless state, if you will. The event-less event. The eternal experience.)
I am describing what you already are.
I am describing what is already the case.
You have always been this.
The world is illusory – everything, literally, every 'thing' is a passing form. Everything is a form passing through awareness. Nothing has any existence outside of a thought story. Everything is empty of self-nature. Everything is impermanent, as the Buddhists have always known. (The word 'existence' literally means 'to stand out of Being'. In other words, to be separate from Being. And of course, that is the illusion - that there is anything separate from anything else. Anything that 'exists' in an illusion.)
Brahman alone is real – behind all the passing forms of the world, behind any 'thing' that 'exists' there is awareness. There is this. Not the thought of it, but the undeniable actuality. Can you deny that you are present and aware, right now? The world comes and goes in this. The "I" comes and goes in this. 'I' and 'world' arise and dissolve together, and only this remains. And even the thought that "only this remains" is something that arises in this. You cannot escape this. Trying to escape from this is just this trying to escape from itself.
Brahman is the world – awareness and the passing contents of awareness are not-two. And this is about as far as we can go with words.
This is not about an intellectual understanding, because all the intellectual understanding in the world is just something else that comes and goes in this. The truth cannot be told, but whether or not it can be told, this is.
All words can do is suggest that everything that arises in the vastness is not separate from the vastness. Everything that arises – the 'world'- is not separate from Brahman. Brahman is the world. And so there is no Brahman and no world.
In other words, this awakeness was never born and will never die. And it is what you are. You are already free.
And so what does all of that mean? To where is it all pointing? Where does it leave us?
Here, right here. Radically so. Breathing happening. The heart beating. A bird singing. Feelings in the body happening. The refrigerator buzzing. Right here, right now, the miracle shines.
This is the only miracle: that anything is happening at all.
This is the awakening: here and now.
This is the grace: drinking a cup of tea. Watching the sunset. Chatting with a friend. Ordinary life, as it is. Ordinary awareness, as it is. Aliveness dances in and as everything. It is aliveness drinking a cup of tea, or watching a sunset. And the tea is aliveness playing at being tea, and the sunset is aliveness playing at being a sunset. In everything, as everything, life dances.
Home was always here: where you are.
You spent a lifetime looking for what was always right under your nose.
No matter. That 'lifetime' is just a thought arising now.
Good to notice.
By Jeff Foster