What can we expect from our meetings?
To learn not to expect. Not expecting is a great art. When you no longer live in expectation, you live in a new dimension. You are free. Your mind is free. Your body is free. To understand intellectually that we are not a psychosomatic entity in the process of becoming is a necessary first step, but this is not sufficient. The fact of not being the body must become an actual experience that penetrates and liberates our muscles, our internal organs and even our cells. An incipient understanding that corresponds to a sudden, fleeting recognition of our true nature brings us a flash of pure joy, but when we have the full knowledge of not being the body, we are that joy.
How can I perceive in a sensorial fashion that I am not the body?
We all experience moments of happiness accompanied by feelings of expansion and relaxation. Prior to this perception, we were in a state of timelessness, an unadulterated, causeless joy of which the physical sensation is simply the ultimate consequence. This joy perceives itself. At that moment, we were not an entity limited in space, not a person. We knew ourselves in the immediacy of the moment. We all know this felicity without cause. When we explore deeply what we call our “body,” we discover that its very substance is this joy. So we no longer have the need or the taste or even the possibility of finding happiness in external objects.
I have brief glimpses of this realm in moments of stillness, then I go to work and find myself in an environment that is not peaceful, and my serenity abruptly disappears. How can I maintain my equanimity permanently?
Everything that appears in awareness is nothing other than awareness itself—your co-workers, clients, superiors, absolutely everything, including the premises, the furniture and the equipment. First understand this intellectually, then verify that this is indeed so. There comes a moment where this feeling of intimacy, this benevolent space around you no longer goes away; you find yourself at home everywhere, even in the packed waiting room of a train station. You only go out of it when you go into the past or the future. Do not stay in the hovel. This immensity awaits you right here, at this very moment. Already being acquainted with its presence and once having tasted the harmony underlying appearances, let the perceptions of the external world and your bodily sensations unfold freely in your welcoming awareness until such time that the background of plenitude reveals itself spontaneously.
I am beginning to realize that I am all gummed up in my body, my sensations, and my impression of being a separate individual.
How does this gummed up feeling manifest?
I feel as if I were hypnotized, both by my pride, my emotions, especially my anger, and by the agitation in my body.
Right. As soon as you become aware that you are hypnotized, the hypnosis ceases.
How is that? This point is unclear to me.
Ask yourself who is hypnotized. Inquire deeply. Who is it? Where is it? You will find that it is not possible to find such an entity. If you explore your mind and your body, you will find a few concepts that you identify with like “I am a woman,” “I am a human being,” “I am a lawyer,” etc. You can also find certain sensations in your body, certain areas that are more opaque, more solid, that you identify with, as well. But when you look more closely, it becomes obvious that you are not this sensation in your chest, nor this thought of being a woman, since feelings and thoughts come and go and what you really are is permanent. At this very moment, the hypnosis ends. The occurrence of these thoughts and feelings is less of a problem than your identification with them. As soon as you become aware of them, you distance yourself. You are free. In this freedom, you do not locate yourself anywhere. It is important to stay in this non-localization, as we have the tendency to hasten taking hold of a new identification as soon as we have let go of the previous one, like a monkey who doesn’t let go of a branch before latching onto another.
You will see how wonderful it is to live in space in this way, without clinging, unattached. In the beginning, it seems a bit strange, although your new attitude doesn’t constitute an obstacle to anything. You can always fulfill your functions as a mother or as a lawyer, feel your body and so forth. In fact, to be nothing, nowhere in space, is very practical. It simplifies life a great deal. Do not be content merely to understand. Put your understanding into practice. Try being nobody. Let go of the branches.
Isn’t it hard after that to come back into your body and live daily life?
You were never in your body, so the question of coming back into it doesn’t arise. Your body is in you. You are not in it. Your body appears to you as a series of sensory perceptions and concepts. It is in this way that you know you have a body, when you feel it or when you think of it. These perceptions and these thoughts appear in you, pure conscious attention. You do not appear in them, contrary to what your parents, your teachers and nearly the whole of the society you live in has taught you. In flagrant contradiction to your actual experience, they have taught you that you are in your body as consciousness, that consciousness is a function emerging from the brain, an organ of your body. I suggest you do not give undue credence to this second-hand knowledge and that you inquire into the raw data of your own experience. Remember the recipes for happiness that were given to you by these same people when you were a child: study hard, get a good job, marry the right man, etc? These recipes don’t work; otherwise you wouldn’t be here asking these questions. They don’t work because they are based on a false perspective of reality, a perspective I am suggesting you put into question.
Can you speak to us about the practice of living intuitively from the heart?
Do not be a person, do not be anything. Having understood that you are no one, you live the truth according to this knowledge. When the idea or sensation of being a person no longer bothers you, whether you are thinking or not, whether you are acting or not, you live the truth from the fullness of the heart.
Am I in right relationship with myself and with the world?
Oh, yes. You are in right relationship, which is that of inclusion. The world as well as your body and your mind are included in your true self. Love is inclusion. Understanding is an intermediate step, but the final destination, the true center, is the heart.
Is the heart the place between this branch and the next, to use the analogy of the monkey?
If you agree to let go of the branch you are clinging to without catching hold of another, you fall into the heart. You have to accept dying; letting everything you know slip away, everything you have been taught, everything you possess, including your life or at least everything that you think at this stage is your life. This requires daring. It’s a kind of suicide.
One of the reasons I postpone and do not make myself available to the invitation is my fear that my life will be radically changed.
Oh, yes. It will be.
My family, as well?
Your family, too. Everything will be changed.
I am afraid that some people will leave me and be replaced by others.
I can assure you that you will regret nothing.
You said one day that there is nothing I can do to get rid of this ego that “sticks” to me and to whom I am so devoted.
There is nothing that the person, that fragmentary entity you believe yourself to be, can do.
Does this imply that all spiritual practice is useless as long as I believe in that?
Exactly. A practice that comes out of the idea of being a physical or mental being cannot be called spiritual. It is the process of acquisition that takes you away from the real. What you really are cannot be acquired because you are it already. The ego is impermanent. It is a repetitive thought associated with emotions, body sensations and reactions. When you are moved by the beauty of a piece of music, by the splendor of a sunset or by the delicacy of an act of love, the ego leaves. In that moment you are open and complete. On the other hand, if you try to improve your ego by the practice of a discipline, like a collector incessantly increasing the value of his collection with new and more sublime acquisitions and becoming more and more attached to it, you end up, in the final analysis, living in isolation and dissatisfaction.
Is this disappearance of the ego gradual or sudden?
You already know who you are. Even someone in whom interest in the deepest reality has not yet awakened knows moments of joy. During these moments, the ego is not present. They emanate from our true being, which is joy itself. Everyone recognizes joy directly. That by which the self knows the self is the self itself. Only being has access to being. Only joy has access to joy, eternity to eternity. What exiles us from the Garden of Eden and plunges us into a frantic search is the erroneous idea that this being, this joy and this eternity are not present. The reabsorption of the ego into being, which event appears, from the temporal point of view, like a letting-go followed by a sudden illumination, puts an end to this search and this frenzy.
What brings about this reabsorption?
There is no answer to this question at the level on which it is asked, as the effect is already in the cause and the cause is still in the effect. Like the beggar in the fairy tale and the magician from whom he learns that he is the King’s son, certain apparently fortuitous meetings can acquaint us with our true identity. At the announcement of this good news, this gospel, in the proper sense of the word, a profound instinct rumbles at the depth of our being and puts us on the trail that leads to the ultimate. This inner movement corresponds to a veiled recognition of our true being, and the promise of joyous serenity that accompanies it channels desire into an unknown direction. This recognition does not refer to an objective and temporal reality. It is not located at the level of memory or of time. Thus, this grace cannot be forgotten. It solicits us more and more often, and each new recognition increases our desire for the divine. Like the wanderer lost on a winter’s night who, detecting from the red glow through the window of an inn the presence of a fire within, pushes open the door and warms himself for a few moments by the hearth, we enter the sanctuary and rest for a moment in the warmth of the sacred light before setting off again into the night. Finally, when our desire for the absolute overcomes our fear of death, we offer to the sacrificial fire of infinite consciousness the pretense of our personal existence. Henceforth, nothing stands in the way of awakening any longer and it progressively unfolds its splendor on all the planes of phenomenal existence, which, little by little, reveal their underlying non-temporal reality, like the gaze of Shams of Tabriz that “was never cast upon some fleeting object without rendering it eternal.”
How can I overcome my fear of seeing the truth, which I feel is an obstacle to my knowing my true nature?
In the first place, be happy that you are aware of this visceral fear, as most people repress and avoid it. As soon as it begins to show its face in a moment of solitude or inactivity, they turn on the television, go see a friend or throw themselves into some kind of compensatory activity or another. Discovering your fear was, therefore, a crucial first step.
I don’t know if I discovered it; my perception is not clear. Perhaps I simply sense its presence.
The recognition of your denial is the beginning of acceptance, come what may. In this way, you take the stance of the contemplator, which is your natural stance anyway. Fear is your ego, the monster that you cart along in your thoughts and your body sensations, the usurper that keeps you apart from the joyous realm that belongs to you. Let it be seen in its totality. Do not be afraid of it, even if its features are terrifying. Draw the strength to look at it from your thirst for the absolute, for freedom. When you begin to feel it, think, “Come here, fear. Show yourself to me, make yourself at home, as I am out of your reach.” The effectiveness of this method derives from the fact that fear is something perceived, therefore limited. The longest snake in the world ends somewhere. Once it is entirely out of the tall grass, seen in its entirety, you are out of danger because it can no longer attack you by surprise. Likewise, when you see before you the entirety of your fear, when there is no part of it that is hidden from you; there is no part of you that can identify with it. It is an object that has become unglued from you. The umbilical cord of ignorance by which the ego is nourished is no longer operational. This phantom “I,” no longer being fed, cannot continue to maintain itself; so it dies in the explosion of your eternal freedom.
Once we have recognized our deepest reality, a memory of that awakening remains with us permanently. We begin to be aware that there are moments when the ego intervenes and that we are able to train it to keep itself at a distance, allowing us to be more and more open to what we are. Could you comment on this point?
It is useless to train the ego or eliminate it. When you try that, who is the agent of this activity?
The ego eliminates itself.
How could this be possible? This attempt, on the contrary, perpetuates it. The ego is an obstacle only insofar as we pay attention to it. Rather than address this search from the negative side, the ego and its elimination, start from the positive side. The recognition of which you were speaking leaves a memory of fullness in you. This memory refers to a non-mental experience. It does not come from the memory that can only record objective elements. If you allow yourself to be guided by it, if you respond by allowing your whole being to be absorbed by its call, the sacred emotion that it arouses in you will lead you directly to the threshold of your timeless presence. It is the only place to find it: here and now, not in thought.
Simply letting what is, be?
Do not speak of it; do not formulate it; do not evaluate it. The intervention of thought distances you from it. Do not even try—you are still making too much effort—it is useless. Surrender and be what you already are, absolute stillness.
I want to be here today, and I have chosen to be here, but what can I learn from you that I cannot learn by myself?
Everything you learn, you learn by yourself. I cannot learn for you. Every circumstance, every event in your life teaches you. What you can learn by asking this question is that there is no master in the personal sense you are referring to. On that level, I am not your master. I am simply happy to be your friend. The true master isn’t a person. It is our self, the self of all beings. Surrender to it, loving only it, being interested in nothing but it. I feel its presence vibrating in those who come to me with the pure intention of knowing it, and they recognize this presence in me. One could say that this presence recognizes itself in the apparent other by a kind of sympathetic resonance. The divine in me recognizes the divine in you in the same instant and by the same movement through which the divine in you recognizes the divine in me. Under these conditions, who can say who is the master and who is the disciple, who is “you” and who is “me?”
To what extent are we free to determine our lives?
As individuals or as what we truly are?
In that case, we are entirely conditioned; therefore, there is no free will. It appears as though we exercise free choice, but in fact we are only reacting like automatons, running through the same patterns of our bio-sociological heritage without respite, leading invariably to the same old reactions, like a vending machine dispensing soft drinks in a train station. As individuals, our freedom is illusory, with the exception of the freedom to stop taking ourselves for separate individuals and thus putting an end to our ignorance and our suffering.
On the other hand, at the level of our deepest being, everything flows out of our freedom. Every thought, every perception takes birth because we want it to. We cannot understand this at the level of thought, but we can experience it. When we are totally open to the unknown, the personal entity is absent; then we realize that the tangible and intangible universes arise out of this openness in the eternal present. We want, create, and are at every moment everything in the unity of awareness.
You speak of being totally open to our thoughts and perceptions. How can we receive all that presents itself to us in the midst of the frantic rhythm of modern life? Is it possible?
Actually, you haven’t the choice, because whatever you think, perceive or do, you are open to it moment by moment. For example, when a thought arises, this thought is spontaneous, isn’t it?
I don’t see what you are getting at.
You don’t take any action in order to make this thought appear. Even if you made such an effort, this action itself would be another spontaneous thought. In point of fact, all things appear by themselves in consciousness, which is always in total openness. Consciousness never says “I want this” or “I don’t want that.” It doesn’t say anything because it continuously receives everything that arises in its field. When you say, “I want this” or “I don’t want that,” it is not consciousness that is talking; it is simply a thought arising from within itself. Then you say, “I wasn’t open”, and that is an upwelling of a new thought. The background of all this mental agitation is consciousness, always open, always welcoming. From the moment you are alive, you are open. Openness is your nature. This is why it is so pleasant to find it; one feels at home, at ease, natural. You do not have to do anything to find yourself in openness, aside from understanding that it is your true nature, that you are already there. As soon as you establish yourself in witness-consciousness, mundane agitation no longer has a hold on you. You understand the process by which it takes over, and through that understanding, you escape it.
But we are not aware of it!
Inquire, find out for yourself. See if it is true that you are continuously aware. See if it is true that what you know yourself to be fundamentally is awareness. Don’t take my assertions as established facts. Question them and question your own beliefs, as well. Also, question the notion of a limited, personal consciousness. Live with these questions, and above all, live in the silent openness that follows this questioning, in the creative “I don’t know.” Into this openness come answers that modify and refine the initial question little by little, making it more and more subtle until it is unable to be formulated by thought. Let this residual process become exhausted by itself in your welcoming attention until the moment the ultimate answer springs forth in you in all its splendor.