When these sticking points are recognized, there is the possibility to rest in that which remains when all that is false falls away, to rest in the luminosity of awakeness itself. This is the Stillness or Silence of Being. Although, this can also be a sticking place. Because in the stillness of being there is no movement … and when there is no movement, the totality of life cannot be fully embraced. There is a more subtle disconnect that happens here. This is a lopsided view in the non-dual perspective: the perspective that “suffering is an illusion” and that “only emptiness is real”. And whilst this is true on an absolute level, it’s not the whole picture: it’s not the full bloom of awakening. There is instead, an avoidance of the blood, sweat and tears of being human. There is an avoidance of meeting the pain or suffering all the way. It’s as if the human experience gets in the way of transcendent unending peace or stillness. This is a comfortable place, but it’s not the whole maturity of awakening.
The full bloom of awakening comes when both the relative and the absolute are really seen as one and the same. This is not the same as being lost in the relative. It’s a very different experience, it has a different texture. It is when both the relative and the absolute are fully recognized as inseparable as the waves from the ocean. There is no inner division, there is no conflict, there is no inner disconnect: both the dark and the light are included. The light of awakeness excludes nothing. No thing in you – and no thing in the world – is excluded from the heart of awakeness.
In the heart of awakeness, suffering can finally be met all the way. There is a big difference between the naked meeting of suffering and the story of suffering. The naked meeting of suffering is the unadulterated meeting of raw reality. There is no self invested in this: there is only unconditioned present-moment awareness. The story of suffering is when we manipulate reality to conform to our idea of who we think we are. In other words, there is a big investment of self in this. And this investment sounds like this: “This shouldn’t be happening to me.” Or “Poor me, I’m so unlucky. Why do always bad things happen to me?” Or “Why does life always punish me? Why does God always punish me? What have I
done wrong?” As soon as we have a story in suffering, we cannot meet suffering in its depth. To meet suffering in its depth is to free yourself from suffering. To meet it with a story is to defend yourself from the depth of that pain. And in defending yourself from the depth of that pain, you cannot experience life fully. There is a separation and this separation creates the seeking.
This is what it means to say “In order to find God we must welcome everything.” It’s a beautiful line from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore. In order to experience yourself as God, as the Totality of Life, as Being-ness itself, you must wake up to who you are, over and over again, in every experience. There is a great spiritual maturity in this. And it takes time, because as the light of awakeness moves through you as your life, it also moves towards everything that has been hidden in the darkness, everything that is hiding in the shadows, all the feelings and emotions and belief systems and energetic contractions that have been previously unmet in your life as part of your story. Awakeness is the compassionate part of being – the compassionate heart of existence – and it moves towards everything that lies in the darkness. So everything comes up to be seen, to be loved, to be met, to be purified. And it moves towards everything in the world that has been unilluminated by your own perception, your clouded perception.
Our conditioning separates us from the world. Our beliefs and our opinions are based only on the story of our conditioning and not on truth, so we judge the world and what we see as right and wrong, good and bad according to that conditioning. The light of awakeness moves towards this in order to illuminate and resolve everything in the oneness of that light, so that there is no longer a division in you or in the world. It’s as if the Buddha-nature in you moves towards the Buddha-nature in everything. Because even in the darkness – in that which we perceive as dark or evil or wrong or unworthy – even in that, is the seed of light. The light of dawn is born out of the dark of the night.
Awakeness is like a magnet. It moves towards that which is awake in everything, even if it appears to be not awake. Within unawakeness is the seed of awakeness, because it is the inherent nature of everything. So in the full bloom of awakening you become a Bodhisattva. You return home. And you don’t have to “do” this. It is inevitable, a choiceless choice. The flower doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t say “Oh, here’s my fragrance, you must come close.” If you come close and imbibe that fragrance, then it’s perfect. And if you don’t, then that’s also perfect. The fragrance is still here. And so it is in you, as you mature into full awakeness.
This article is based on a Talk at East Bay Open Circle (November 2014)