What Have You Got To Lose?

Dear Mr. Morrison, I came across your website recently and have been stunned silent by what I’ve read. I have been in a halfhearted pursuit of Enlightenment since I was 17, when I first encountered the work of Ken Wilber while struggling to break free of an existential depression that first gripped me a year earlier. For two years I have realized that all I really want is Enlightenment, yet I have consistently avoided a vigorous pursuit of it by trying to learn more about it first. For months now I have understood that this attempt to know more about it is just a fear-based reaction, a resistance against not-knowing, but I have been unable to eliminate my doubt (which seems remarkably similar to fear) and simply give myself up to “faith” or “trust” in what the Enlightened ones claim is true.

So I have sought more knowledge, looking for that juicy morsel of written patterns that will completely bolster my confidence and purge my fear. I have actually been looking for a statement to the effect of: “Pure consciousness is _not_ a by-product of neural activity, not dependent on the human brain, and when you attain Enlightenment you will realize this beyond even the slightest shadow of a doubt–not because you are ‘not-knowing’ and incapable of doubt, but because you know fully and completely, and doubt cannot touch your conviction.”

What I found on your site was much more shocking and inspiring. All along I’ve put such a profound trust in _thinking_, in _knowing_, that I’ve never once seriously considered that maybe, just maybe, what thinking and knowing presents me with is not the reality at all. I guess, being a student of Ken Wilber’s work, I’ve known this–intellectually or theoretically–all along, but I never really let it sink in. I’ve depended upon thinking, upon the accumulation of knowledge about reality, as far back as I can remember. I’ve _trusted_ thought and memory so much that I’ve built my entire existence around the process, and the idea that my collection of ideas about reality might be consistently incomplete, misleading, or absolutely _wrong_ has terrified me.

Now I can see how utterly insane it is to pretend one already knows what he is looking for; i.e., that I know anything at all about “Enlightenment” or “Awareness” or “Reality.” The finger most certainly is _not_ the moon, and the only way one can see the moon is to look away from the finger, rather than persisting in being fascinated by it as a defense against not knowing whether there really is a moon at all.

I’m still having trouble giving up completely to this, though, and I guess that’s why I’m not yet Enlightened (and thus capable of abandoning that concept). This is the first opportunity I’ve had (or at least taken) to communicate with an Enlightened person, so I would greatly appreciate any insight you could give me into the following concerns, which have plagued me (and prevented my from letting go of thought, of letting go to Love) since I first consciously began this quest:

1.) If I disentangle myself from thought, feelings, and memory, so that I rest as absolute Awareness itself, will I really be living as I should? Can you promise me that this awareness knows what it is doing better than the current “I”–the ego of thoughts and feelings–ever could? Andrew Cohen said, “It is only what you do or don’t do that creates karma. If you understand this deeply then you will find that who you are has absolutely nothing to do with what you think.” Is this really true? Is this Awareness so filled with pure concerns, pure love, and pure intentions that if I give myself to it completely–if I give up on constantly “knowing” and concern with thinking–that I won’t regret it later (i.e., I won’t make a mistake and hurt someone)? You see, that’s what I’m really afraid of. I’m afraid that if I cease being somebody, I’ll not be able to trust the actions of this “awareness.” Is God truly absolute Goodness? Is God completely trustworthy?

2.) You say that reality is ever-new, impermanent, and absolute Awareness itself, so it is forever “Unknown.” What we think we “know” is not reality but memories and other mental conceptions of reality. But isn’t thought just as much “reality” as anything else? So can it really be known? Is that just an illusion of new thoughts imagining they can grasp previous thoughts? Or are thoughts _all_ that is ever known, and since “the universe is created by thought alone,” is being free from thought what it means to be “awake” from the dream of time, space, and things? And why, if you are Awareness Incarnate, are you not _aware_ of what I am thinking right now or doing right now? If it’s the same awareness in everyone, why doesn’t one resting as that awareness know everything that everyone else knows? This has always confused me, and while I can come up with some possible answers, I’d really like to know the truth. Can you answer that for me? Please?

3.) Awareness is nondual. Awareness transcends the mind-made duality of love vs. hate. Yet “Awareness is Love” and never is it said that “Awareness is Hate.” How can Awareness be more like one quality than another if it is nondual? If I sit in the sun, feeling the cool breeze, accepting things exactly as they are, it is obvious that Awareness is Love. There’s no question. But once I start thinking about it all, contemplating nondual philosophy . . . ah, the thinking again. Enlightenment is just freedom from a fascination with thinking, isn’t it? Yet without thinking, there could be no Enlightenment. Fascinating. . . .

4.) Is it really worth it? Can you promise me, honestly, that if I focus on this above all other concerns and desires, I will be happy? That I won’t be afraid of anything anymore? That I will be free of _doubt_? I’m willing to go all the way, if it will _really_ make as big a difference in “my” life as you and others say it will. But until someone can promise me–promise me with absolute sincerity–that I will not regret dying into this Mystery, then I’m going to hang onto my thinking, my self, my life, my security. Perhaps I’m just arrogant, maybe I’m an asshole, but I want to put my trust in someone, in _you_, and not some book or website.

Please answer my questions and concerns, if you have the time. I would really, really appreciate it. Thank you for helping me to look at my relationship to thinking a little more closely. I never really questioned it before.

You’re making this much more complicated than it actually is. At this point, you might as well go ahead and let go of the whole notion of “Enlightenment,” and “Enlightened ones,” for that matter. Those are just words, labels, images, memories, fantasies, and so on, all of it with immense emotional investment, identity, and a bottomless pit of self loathing, self justification, and self aggrandizement, are they not? So let’s drop the pretense of student and teacher, one-up and one-down, and go into this as friends, sincere comrades in the exploration what is. As such, I can’t honestly promise you anything, but going about it in this way opens up a real possibility of discovering directly how it is and what is true – that which is not dependent upon or limited to anyone’s belief or the pretense of authority at all.

If we examine it honestly and directly, it becomes apparent that awareness has no opposite, is that not so? When are you not aware? You may focus and concentrate on some particular object or field or type of experience, but you are still aware, are you not? Even in sleep, when mental and physical sensations become muted and shut down, you are still aware, are you not? (check it out yourself and see.) Is there anything that you ever see, hear, smell, taste, feel, think, say, do, or otherwise experience in which awareness is not there also? Doesn’t that make you a little suspicious? Everywhere you go, everything you do, awareness is also present. “You” and “awareness”. Are they not one in the same? This is not a concept. We may trivialize it with some kind of mental defense, and try to turn it into a “philosophy of awareness,” but what for? What good would a “philosophy of orgasm,” or the “psychology of eating delicious food,” or the “relaxation religion,” or the “path of smiling” be? Or even a “philosophy of pain and discomfort”? Of what use is a fictitious buffer between ourselves and all of life? In this sense, love has no opposite either, does it? It includes everything, even things we imagined we didn’t like or want. When awareness is allowed to be wide open, that is, not manipulated or limited by clinging, craving, fearing, or resisting, is there not just the sweet simplicity, sensitivity, and intimacy of all that is?

Furthermore, I suggest you forget about trying to give up “your self,” “your life,” or “your security.” We can’t give up something we never had in the first place, can we? If, as a child, I sneak downstairs to catch Santa placing the presents near the tree on Christmas Eve, only to be shocked by the discovery that it was my parents all along, do I really give up “Santa”? Suddenly, with the searing force of lightening, what was vague and confusing all makes perfect sense: We don’t even have a chimney… and how could he have made all those deliveries in one night… and how did he know what I wanted for Christmas, and so on. We may maintain some sentimental memories of “Jolly Old Saint Nick,” but we can no longer believe in “him” in the same way. (There is no Santa in our future.)

In other words, your self and your life and your security don’t really work or check out very well with reality because they don’t really exist in the first place. They are just mental/emotional inventions. Of course thoughts (thoughts about ourselves or anything else) are real in the sense that they are experiences, that is, phenomena arising in consciousness (in you), but to imagine that they somehow are, or could encompass the vast, infinite whole of reality is both scientifically and spiritually naive. They’re just thoughts. Mental images, sounds, associations, feelings. That’s all.

“Is it really worth it?” you ask. Is clear observation worth it? Is honest reflection worth it? Is the rich serenity of humility and understanding, and the sweetness of intimacy with all that is worth it? Is being unconditionally awake and alive worth it? Is being freedom and peace itself really worth it? What are notions of “God” and “spiritual awakening” all about, if not this? I can’t see where anything else makes any sense. But the only way you can truly know is to find out for yourself. What do you have to lose?

-Your own Self-
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