Resting in the Happening of this Moment:
Being What You Cannot Not Be
Spiritual practice (the pathless path from here to here) boils down to something very simple. Being present, awake, open. Resting in the simplicity of what is. Being what we cannot not be: the happening of this moment, just as it is.
Even after all these years of meditation and awakening and writing books and holding meetings about nonduality, I still find myself sometimes seemingly resisting the happening of this moment and trying to run away from that primal sense of yukiness, unease, restlessness, discontent, anxiety, loneliness, depression, uncertainty, emptiness – however you want to characterize it. Suddenly I’m swept up in some version of the story that I’m all alone in a meaningless void, that I’ve ruined my life. There is the vague and disturbing sense that I’m drowning in some horrible ickiness. I rush to the bookcases looking for the right spiritual book, or I turn on the TV and begin mindlessly surfing through the channels, or I get on the internet and begin reading articles about things I don’t even care about. Or I’m compulsively biting my fingers and I feel more and more tightly knotted up inside in a conflict between the intense desire to stop biting and the overwhelming urge to continue. I feel frozen and stuck in a painful groove that I can’t escape, desperately seeking a way out.
Eventually, it occurs to me to stop trying to do (or not do) anything, to give up the search for a solution or a distraction, to simply be present, to allow everything to be just exactly as it is. Suddenly it becomes possible to completely surrender to the actuality of Here / Now, to resist nothing, not even the compulsive biting of my fingers if that is what is happening. Instantly, I feel the heart open. This is the end of grasping and seeking, the end of resisting and avoiding, the end of trying to fix myself and be somebody else, the end of trying to figure it all out or get the right conceptual map nailed down. This is not knowing anything and not needing to know. Suddenly there is no problem anymore. There is no me. There is only this undivided, spacious presence that includes everything, just as it is. Everything is okay, even fingerbiting or feelings of uneasiness or anxiety. Nothing needs to be other than how it is, and when there is complete openness to how it is, I find it is no particular way at all. Everything is moving and changing and dissolving. There is a huge sense of relief. The problem was imaginary.
And really, this is all there is to it. It all boils down to the simplicity of what is. Being this present happening, this that we cannot not be, simply being.
It may take years before we discover this possibility of stopping and being still, before we know what this even means to stop, to simply be. And then even after we discover this possibility, it isn’t always instantly available. Of course, it is always available in one sense, for it is what Here / Now is, and we are never not here, even in the midst of what appears to be contraction, resistance and disturbance. We're never really in the rut we think we're in; in fact, we don't actually exist as anything separate from the happening of this moment. But that isn't always clear to us. Often the force of habit is very strong, the illusion is very convincing, the compulsion to seek and resist is over-powering, and we seem to be somebody with a problem. This inner weather has a strong momentum and is often triggered and sustained by particular conditions of the bodymind (genetics, neurochemistry, hormones, past trauma, and so forth). Sometimes for all of us, the simplicity and the openness of Here / Now is seemingly over-shadowed by the stories and thoughts swirling around and creating the mirage-like “me” who seems to be suffering from this or that problem.
The habitual reaction to that primal sense of yukiness and unease is to try to get away from it, to try to fix “me,” to seek a solution to the imaginary problem, to think about what’s wrong, to analyze it, to try to figure out a solution – or else to look for something “out there” that will soothe us: a distraction, a pleasure, a satisfying answer, something to numb the pain. We think and think and think. We rush to the bookshelves and read. We surf the internet. We flip through the TV channels. We search through the refrigerator. We eat. We buy things. We check our email or our hand-held devices. We smoke and drink. We call up our friends and tell them the story of what’s wrong with us. Whatever our particular tendency is. Basically, anything but what actually works.
But when we finally stop, there is no problem. And there is no separate self who has a problem.
Again, it may take many years before we first knowingly wake up from the trance of separation, encapsulation and fragmentation, before we notice the openness and the spaciousness that is right here, the boundlessness of bare being, the seamlessness of this present happening, the fluidity and insubstantiality of everything. And even after we have discovered this, we forget. But sooner or later, we remember again.
We stop trying to escape. We allow ourselves to be as we are. We relax into the happening of this moment, letting everything be just exactly as it is, resisting nothing, not even resistance.
This effortlessness isn’t something we can force or bring about by an exertion of will. It isn’t something intellectual or conceptual that we subscribe to as a new philosophy or belief system. It is the ever-present, ever-changing, energetic aliveness of being. And this open, seamless, alive presence isn’t some far away destination that we hope to finally reach or achieve in the future, but rather, it is what Here / Now is. So this waking up, this surrender is a relaxing into what is effortlessly presenting itself – this one eternal present moment, just as it is, from which nothing stands apart.
And when we do forget, when we seem to be tangled up in confusion and despair, that’s not something to take personally as a sign of failure. It’s simply a conditioned weather pattern that has no owner. It will unwind itself at its own pace, in its own time. The best we can do is to simply allow it to be as it is, to let it move through, to be present when we can, and to have compassion for ourselves and everyone else when that isn’t possible, when the conditioning to close down and run away is over-powering. It helps greatly to see that being lost at times is all part of the dance and that nothing is really an enemy, a distraction or a failure. The light and the dark go together as one seamless happening.
So again, it all boils down to something very, very simple. Being awake. Resting in the happening of this moment, exactly as it is. Relaxing the need to understand or to make things different than they are. Opening the heart. Just this – right here, right now.
-- copyright Joan Tollifson 2012 --
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