Birthday again

Let’s look at that opening sentence from Douglas Harding’s book On Having No Head again.

(For those who are unfamiliar with Harding’s work, here is an excellent documentary):

“The best day of my life – my rebirthday, so to speak – was when I found I had no head.”

This opening salvo is obvioulsy not meant to be taken literally. In a physical sense, you and I have heads (although, come to think of it, there is a swift abstract picture of a body that we carry around with us that we tap into when needed. If you close your eyes and just be honest to pure sensation, can you really say you have a body? Or , rather, do we only register a complex patchwork of sensation? Warmth, cool, tingling, pressure etc).

So then how can we understand this marvellous opening sentence?

I think this is not a matter to be intellectually grappled with. It is an observation, pure and simple: when we look, we find the world (which includes our body, thoughts and feelings) but no centre from which the world is observed or sensed. The world just is.

Again, this is not an idea to intellectually battle over. It is a fact to be seen, not conceptually practised. This is really the challenge, for we can get trapped in intellectually battling this insight, doing a “for” and “against” rationalisation.

Headlessness frees us from an ego-trapped view of reality. We register a delightful glimpse of freedom that is mercifully non-rational and fundamentally non-argumentative.

Can it be practised? Sustained? Improved upon? I find these concepts quite exhausting and limited. The trick is just to relax and see.