If the one who feels the need to make an effort is a dreamer woven into an illusion, how can effort have any significance?
If all progressive paths are part of a dreamed narrative, then what possibe significance can progress have?
The dreamer may make an effort. Or the dreamer may dream she is walking a difficult path.
Perhaps the one behind the dreamer, the aware reality, can indulge this dreamed reality and let it arise and dissolve as it will.
There is, quite literally, nowhere to go. There is no one who can go anywhere.
(This is a theme that I wil doubtless revisit often in these ramblings!)
As far back as I can remember, I have been afraid of death. I remember even as a young child feeling rage and sorrow that “all this” would one day simply end. That would be that. I never believed stories of an afterlife.
The teachings of non-duality have altered my feelings towards death, radically and viscerally.
“I” am most certainly a fiction: that is point number one. The carefully constructed personality, built out of experiences and memories, is a fiction, and its seeming death need not be mourned.
Point number two: the present is a “moving shifting mysterious event,” as Darryl might put it. Death, no doubt, will also be a moving shifting mysterious event.
Point number 3: death feels like going home, a return to that boundless space from which all of us seemed to “arise” at birth. Going home feels like a relief. No ego to cart around any more.
We will all be liberated when “we” die. It is cool to be liberated in this lifetime, but it may not be such a big deal, except for the deluded ego, that is.
In some Buddhist meditation techniques, the practitioner is taught to repeatedly bring attention to the breath in fine, subtle detail. Whenever it is noticed that the mind has wandered far away, the suggestion is to bring the attention back to the breath. The intention is, I think, to refine attention as well as to become aware of the “monkey mind.”
I find it refreshing to pay attention to the breath, but from a slightly different angle. It is fun to see that the breath is simply happening. Similarly, it is fun to notice that the heart is beating, the body is spontaneously moving, thoughts and moods are spontaneously arising without a doer.
Attention to the breath is a powerful gateway into the realisation that “I” am not causing things to happen. Worlds are arising and dissolving without “my” having to do a thing about it.
“As a dreamer it seems convincing that you are an individual who can make an effort to get from A to B. In reality there is no you and no A or B. But going even deeper than that, there is no-one that can make an effort and there is no-one that can give up seeming to make an effort. ”
Tony Parsons. “Nothing Being Everything”.
When I first came across the “message” of non-dualism, it was a rude shock. I had spent a “long time,” “many years,” in trying to pay attention to myself and my surroundings, understand myself better, come to a state of peace and calm, improve my psychological state, have more compassion and … the list is already quite long.
When I read statements like the one above by Tony, then I began to “give up effort.” And this led to my second rude shock. I can’t really either acquire or give up anything. The one to whom acquisition and renunciation is happening is a dreamer.
There is only the flow of life and experience. This is essentially undefinable. Thought and the dreamt thinker may try to make sense of the flow, apply labels to the flow. But do labels really capture reality?
Just as much as striving is of no avail, giving up striving is of no avail either. There is only what is.
Our thought processes inevitably tend towards definition. We seek to define outward life situations–work, relationships– as well as our “inner” states. Is she friend or foe? An inner heuristic quickly supplies an answer. Do I feel like a success or a failure today? Likewise, another heuristic.
This is a convenient layer that thought paints over what is essentially mysterious and unknown. Life as we experience it is, if we pay attention, a complex tangle of sensation, feeling, perception, thought, memory, action, bodily impulse. But our attention is sucked, as if by a magnet, toward what our specific thought processes define our life as.
We can recognise that thought is just one of many players in the movie of life. This moment is unknown. Not as an idea, but as a lived reality.
Our lives escape definition at all levels. The unknown is the unknown. Labels are fundamentally empty.