The Looking Glass
Language as Mirror
[April 24: The Looking Glass is far and away the most popular post that I've ever
written for Awakening Clarity, and it's on track to become the most popular piece
that's ever been presented on this forum. Many thousands of people from
every corner of the world have come to read it, and re-read it.]
Right now, this moment, the only reason you can read these words is that you're awake. You're already awake. You're as awake as it gets. You're already fully awake.
Given that you're already fully awake, how then could you wake up further? Since you're already awake, does that idea even make sense? You can't wake up more from where you are right now. And certainly you can't wake up again.
If you want to read a book through that body you're wearing, or watch a video, or send it to a retreat for further clarity or to get some context that has the potential to open the door to further clarity, that's great. But before you do, notice that you don't need to read another book, watch a video, or go to a retreat in order to wake up, because you're already awake.
If you want to do meditation, drum, dance, chant, or what have you, for the sake of grounding yourself in that present human experience you're having, or calming that unit's mind so that you can better hear yourself talk to yourself, and better watch yourself dance for yourself, terrific. Have at it. But, be absolutely aware that you can't practice yourself into awakening. You can't achieve what you already are.
You're just not who you think you are; that's the only issue here. You're undergoing a case of mistaken identity, and all you need today is a little light reflected from this mirror, this mirror of clear language that is also you. There is only you, but you tend to get a bit cloudy sometimes, and forget that. It comes with the territory when your spaciousness apparently contracts around apparent human beings, and it's no big deal. It's fine. When you're ready to be clear you find a bright mirror, so here you are, back in front of the vanity mirror that is also you!
Vanity, vanity, all is vanity! This is all you, every bit of it--you dancing for you, you preening for you, just you showing off for yourself, to yourself and loving it--loving this loving yourself.
You think you're the human being reading these words.
You're not. Well, you actually are that human also, but you're not that person exclusively. You're the awareness that's reading these words through that human being. The human is not reading the words; you are. The human is a reading tool for you just as reading glasses are a tool for the human. Reading glasses never mistake themselves for being the reader; humans almost always do.
You think you need to wake up. You don't. All that has to occur is for you to recognize yourself as what you truly are. "Awaken" makes it sound like something special, and new, and different needs to happen. It doesn't. Recognition, on the other hand, is simply about noticing what already is. See how much lighter the idea of recognition is versus the idea of waking up? Why make it hard on yourself, when you're clearly longing to see/be your true nature again?
Why not do this the easy way? Be gentle to yourself. How much effort does it take for that human to recognize itself in a mirror? None. The same is true for you. You just have to be willing to look in the mirror and see the reflection instead of the projection.
Stop seeking outwardly for just a few minutes. After all, you have all the time in the world! Reverse your attention. Take your plain old attention, what feels like your personal attention, and turn it around. Look back instead of out.
Notice how easy it is to move your attention whenever and wherever you want to move it. Notice how whatever attention finds tends to expand. See how easy it is for you to pull globalized awareness, meaning the background, unfocused awareness that is always running, and reform it into localized awareness.
Notice how once you've seen what you wanted to see, the apparent localization drops of its own accord, once again leaving boundless globalized awareness in its stead. It just happens; you don't have to do a thing. All of this is working for you. It's always here, always running, and certainly it's always awake. It has to be. It's all part of you, part of the one thing going on--you.
You have always been awake, always will be, cannot fail to be awake. Awakeness is not a trait of yours, it's what you actually are.
Back to the attention exercise. What do you see when you turn back and look for yourself? What do you find? Can you actually find yourself? Check. Really look.
Do you find anything?
Anyone? No, you can't find yourself, because there's nothing objective there to see. There's a sense of something being there, but there's nothing locatable, because there's nothing objective. But clearly there is something there, and it's absolutely alive. You can feel that, can you not? Isn't there almost a stirring, perhaps a tingling, a certain presence, perhaps behind your eyes, in your chest, or around your head? It's undefinable, but it's there. Always. You can feel it if you let yourself. Let yourself.
The we-who-are-you have a word, a sort of name for that undefinable, living presence you discover when you look back and try to find yourself and can't. We can't call it something, but neither is it nothing, hence we have arrived at no-thing.
This no-thing, this pure subjectivity, this keen awareness that's looking out through the eyes of that human you're wearing is what you are. You have been on an endless search for something unfindable. It ends when you end it, and not before.
In Nondual teachings it is said, "The eye can't see itself." They mean that you are that invisible eye. You can't see yourself when you look back, because you're the no-thing doing the looking. Let that hit you. Let that settle in. Feel it. Right there, that bit of a line, is the wide open Gateless Gate, enlightenment in a nutshell. What you've been looking with--your magical attention, which is nothing more than focused awareness--is what you've been looking for--unfocused awareness which is the living background of all things. You've been a dog chasing its tail. You can chase it for an entire lifetime, and never find it so long as you continue to outward, which is where your attention is naturally drawn. Such is the fate of most seekers. You don't have to be one of them.
You can't see yourself, you can't really find yourself, but you can sense yourself. You can know yourself. Right now! In fact, you can't know anything else! And you'll never know yourself later. There is no later. So notice yourself--know yourself right now! Pay attention to attention!
Notice that I didn't have to say, "Wake up and look for yourself." You are always already awake, and you are always already here. Ever since you started this so-called spiritual journey, you've been looking for "some other level" of awakeness. Listen to me closely. There is no other level of awakeness. This everyday awakeness that you've experienced every day of your life is the very same awareness all the saints and sages have talked about since time immemorial. There is only the single awareness, only Not-two! You are that very awareness. Every step on your so-called spiritual path you've been looking for "some other kind" of awareness. Hear me. There is no other kind of awareness.
It doesn't. It can't! A human can't hold you! Nothing can hold you! You hold everything! You are the aware space that everything appears in. THIS aware space! The ONLY aware space there is! You permeate all humans, every single one of them, inside and out. You've hitherto thought that there actually is something called "your consciousness". There isn't. Pay close attention.
You are "your consciousness," and you are simultaneously everyone's "personal consciousness". I say this lightly, almost laughingly, because there is no personal consciousness. Consciousness is not something you have, it's what you are. Nothing can take that from you, not even death. When that human body dies, you just change channels. Your focused attention goes elsewhere within your unfocused awareness. There's nowhere else to go. You dial up another dream. It's always Movie Night for you!
Let's look at the notion that awareness, or consciousness, is something you have. It's quite a convincing story you set up for yourself there.
Shut those eyes for a minute. If you're interested in having that long-sought-after spiritual awakening that that particular human has been going on and on about for damn near forever, that's it's driven itself crazy over, then don't just read this, do it. Read this all the way through, then close those eyes, relax that body, and go through the exercise.
Notice that without benefit of sight you can still tell that you're alive.
You still know you are, sight or no sight. Imagine you're in utter silence. Wouldn't you still know you were alive in the absence of sound? Wouldn't you still be able to sense the usually subtle pulsing of aliveness within the body? Of course you would. You would know. If we stuffed cotton in those ears, wouldn't you still know that you were there--or rather that you are here? So, without benefit of either sight or hearing you can still tell that you're alive. The knowledge that you are is not dependent on certain conditions or tools. You cannot fail to know that you are.
In fact, if I took that unit you're wearing and dropped it into a sensory deprivation chamber, you would still know that you're alive. That knowing is not dependent on sensations, perceptions, thoughts, memories, or any other information. It's not dependent on anything. In fact, everything is dependent on it! That knowing is primary. It's the only thing for which there is no opposite.
Can you imagine not knowing yourself?
No, you cannot. That knowing has no opposite, thus it's unimaginable. It "cannot not" be! Knowing would have to be present in order to report that it doesn't know itself! The question collapses.
That knowing is the One True No-thing.
But that knowing is really knowingness, is it not? You are not a static knowing. You are not some kind of grand noun. You are beyond noun-ness. And all these years you've been looking for some kind of vague, but grand object so that you could experience yourself. You cannot experience what you are.
You are beyond verbness too, but verbness, in a display that is constantly shifting, morphing, changing from one extreme to the other and back again; evolving and devolving, forward and back, is always arising to you, to that-which-does-not-move-but-is-not-static. You arise to yourself. We-who-are-also-you vaguely call that verbness "the world," which expands or contracts to suit your purposes. It might be a thought, a sound, a room, or it might be a whole universe. Regardless, whatever arises is not other than you.
You are what you know, and what you know, you are.
The seeker is the sought.
Notice that knowingness. Stop and notice it now. Become conscious of it, hold it within attention--be the attention--so that you can come to recognize it clearly. Feel it. In the absence of that knowingness, there is no world. In the presence of that knowingness the world arises, fully formed. You don't have to do a thing; it just happens.
Notice that the knowing doesn't need to wake up, in fact cannot wake up, because it's always already awake. See that it's the knowingness that's come to know itself. We call this knowingness-knowing-itself conscious awareness, versus unconscious awareness, which is still awake and alive and aware, but not consciously. Either way it's still you. One way you're cloudy, one way you're clear, but there's just one thing going on, and that one thing is you.
You are already Home. You have always been Home. There is nothing other than Home.
If you are already Home, how would you ever find it by looking for it? You'd always be looking away from it. You find Home only when you notice it's where you already are, always have been, and always will be, because there is nothing other than Home. There is nothing other than This. Look!
I'm talking about THIS This! THIS very This where you already are! We don't find Home by going after it; we find it by stopping within it. Any directions on how to get Home are by definition directions leading away from home. But they are great for tiring you out! And it's all good fun--until it's not.
What have you been using all these years in your search for enlightenment? Awareness. What has been reading all the books? Awareness. What has been watching all the videos, and listening to the teachers? Awareness. If you meditate, what is it that watches your breath, or your thoughts, or counts, or tries to let go of doing all that, or gets annoyed because you can't adequately escape the nagging now in order to enjoy some experience--that would of course arise and fall within the nagging now? Awareness. What is it that prays? Awareness. What is it that asks, "Who am I?" until it wants to scream? Awareness.
Awareness has been in a millennia-long search for awareness. It's been looking for some other awareness. Hear me: there is no other awareness.
This is it. THIS This is all there is.
Oneness cannot find otherness no matter how long or hard it looks, because there is no otherness for oneness to find. The definition of oneness could be said to be no-other-to-find. If you're searching for some other, as you have been, and there IS no other, how long can you look? If all is oneness, where do you imagine you're standing while you're looking for the oneness? In the oneness!
So long as you insist on looking forward, so long as you are seeking something outside yourself, you'll never find yourself, never hook up with yourself, never ever "awaken," at least not in this life. So for goodness sakes, stop.
Why continue in this compulsive looking for something that's totally unfindable? You've been hot on the trail of a phantom. STOP!
Once you sense what you are, once you take that giant leap to the utterly obvious and recognize what you are--that which is looking--there may or may not be a sharp sense of realization.
It doesn't matter. All of that bliss and fireworks, fun as it might be, is candy. It's completely unnecessary--it has nothing to do with awakening any more than a car has to do with the driver's body. It's simply a vehicle, and just like cars, and planes and trains, there are all kinds of vehicles, none inherently more important than the other. It's about the damn trip, not the vehicle! Any bells and whistles are just bells and whistles. They're just pleasant distractions.
What matters is simple recognition, because however you display yourself to yourself, you're almost surely going to have to come back to fresh conscious recognition over and over again. This is the discipline part. This is the process part. This is where you use that unit to help you. Don't try to transcend the unit--use it! Just because that unit uses a shovel to dig a hole, it doesn't think it's the shovel. That unit is a tool. Deign to use it.
All of the ramifications of the seeing/being What Is are not immediately obvious. They will fill in as your understanding increases. You see what you need to see when you need to see it, not before. Work with what you have and more will come. That's how it works. We are like spies; we work on a need-to-know basis.
You may tell yourself, "It can't be that simple." It is. Recognition starts with seeing the seer--or rather, not seeing the seer! No seer, no seen, only seeing. Only an object can see, only an object can be seen, and you, of course, are not an object. All objects appear within you, arise to you. You are what is primary. There may be lots of other relatively real stuff, a whole world full of it, but you are the One True No-thing.
This seeing is so amazing that you may want to claim it. But who will it be that wants to claim it? That unit cannot hold such seeing in its head, cannot store it up for later recall. Only you can behold you--and then only right now.
This simple recognition of your true nature is not the end of your apparent journey, but it can be the end of all this compulsive seeking you've been doing--if you let it.
It can be the most important step you never take. Just STOP.
Look at what's looking. Pay attention to attention.
You can overcome this simple seeing if you want to--99% of humans do. They do it all the time. This is why everyone wants a big, splashy spiritual experience. They think if they have a flashy experience, an S&M-style spiritual experience where they will be tied up and made to see the truth, they will not then be able to overcome it with incessant thinking. That's not true. People do it all the time anyway. They think that just because they got a big, lazy peek at things that they can stay awake and lazy at the same time. They can't. They sit on their haunches and they get cloudier and cloudier. And that's fine, too. But it certainly can't be labeled skillful.
You don't ever go to sleep, but you can most certainly delude yourself and appear to go to sleep. It's what you do--in almost every single one of these human suits you're wearing.
You are always awake, but you are not always consciously awake. In fact, you are rarely consciously awake. And because you've been unconsciously awake for thousands of years in that package--meaning the DNA and softer conditioning associated with the body you thought you were when you first started reading this--you'll fall right back into unconsciousness if you don't consistently and actively nourish it with conscious light.
You have to be willing to shine truth, even when you don't feel like yourself, even when you don't want to, on things you'd rather leave in the dark. You must hold nothing back. Willingness is your bridge into being the shining on an ongoing basis. You give yourself to the light fully, or you don't give yourself at all.
Don't bother trying to figure any of this out, or you'll end up right back on the same hamster wheel from which you just hopped off. You don't have to figure anything out.
Let the mind live in uncertainty. Let the body do what it does.
You do what you do: just watch, just be alert. You are not the watcher, you are the watching, you are the light behind alertness itself.
But when you're watching as conscious awareness instead of unconscious awareness, then what you see will change. Look at any human life and you'll see lots and lots of hopeless, blind patterns, compulsive energy patterns that are just running by themselves, with no one at the wheel, and no good end in sight. Once they were successful, now they're not, yet still they run. And run and run and run.
You'll see a long trail of unskillful living, a long trail of suffering. If you're willing to really look at the patterns, they will start to change.
These patterns are very specific, so each one has to be shined on by the light of your conscious awareness in order for it to be remedied; in order for there to be clearing. Awareness colonizes the body one bit, one seeing, one unconscious pattern at a time.
Don't try to fix that unit.
You can't anyway; that body is operating on its own. You are not its minder or controller. It's doing what it does until it does something else. Let it--it will do so, regardless. It won't do something else until it sees that what it's already doing isn't helpful, isn't skillful, isn't beneficial to the well being of the unit and the world. But once it does see that, once it truly and thoroughly sees it, then that penetrated pattern will thin, recede, drop away of its own accord. You don't have to do a thing. It just happens. Clarity arises. It may happen quickly, or it may happen slowly, but once an unskillful pattern has been fully penetrated, it's days are numbered.
This process of bringing light to all of your dark corners is what we call embodiment. Slowly, sometimes excruciatingly slowly, you will begin to "live up to your seeing," so to speak. There's no rush. When you're done with that body, you have seven billion more to turn to, and that's just on this planet!
Your willingness to be consciously awake to this present arising--is critical. Will you stand as awareness and see things as they are, or stand as a hypothetical center of consciousness, and wish for what isn't? In every moment you ally yourself either with experience, or thinking. You have a history of voting for thinking. It'll take some work to shift that default position. It'll take a lot of willingness.
This willingness must extend all the way down. Even when you revert to feeling like you are that human character again, as you almost surely will, you have to be willing to take that character's thinking into inquiry. You have to be willing to remain forever open to doubt, to embrace uncertainty. Sureness will be a thing of the past, but living in the mysterious unfolding of yourself is so much more satisfying.
Ask yourself again and again, "Is what I'm thinking really true, or is it a belief, an opinion, a position? A BOP?"
Again and again, as you touch truth through actual experience--as you discover truth through continuous inquiry--that touch will bring a longer, stronger, more profound experience of what you always already are--that which knows that you are.
Eventually the inquiry becomes less formal, and more spontaneous. You won't always have to take your thoughts about arisings through a process of formal inquiry. Life itself becomes constant inquiry. Delusion arises, it's questioned, penetrated, and it drops. Pop, pop, pop. Like everything else, you don't have to do a thing. It just happens effortlessly. It's all for you.
We-who-are-also-you call this effortless living abiding. We call it abiding enlightenment, because you are then consciously living in the awakeness that you know yourself to be, and operating within the world as that awakeness.
Did this nudge you out of cloudiness, and back toward clarity? If it did, be willing to read it again. If it worked at all for you the first time, it'll permeate deeper as you reread it. Repetition is the mother of clarity. Be well. Be wellness.
© 2013 Fred Davis
All rights reserved.
This post is reprinted in the back of
which carries on this same work.
Thank you to Jerry Katz for sending this out in his fine newsletter, Nondual Highlights. See his appearance here as a Guest Teacher. And thank you to Jeannie and Paul McGillivray of Meeting Truth for their terrific support. This post has become, at least for Awakening Clarity and myself, a real event. Thousands of people have read it in the first few days. No doubt thousands more will do so. Thanks also to you readers for all the great mail on it.