October 5, 2015

I just returned from a four-day retreat I hold every year at Mount Shasta in northern California, an environment that seems to me especially supportive of meditation and self-investigation. This talk describes the practice that grounded the whole retreat, an observing of the way all of our thinking is fundamentally unrelated to who we actually are:

“There is a being-ness that has nothing to do with your mind. There is a way that you are here independent of and without any engagement in anything your mind produces or creates. There is an is-ness to that presence here which no thought can ever replicate, no explanation can make sense of, no image can mirror, and no word can describe. That is-ness is what you are; it is, in the most intimate and personal sense, your identity. That isn-ness is what constitutes you, and everything else that appears to be you, everything you have decided you are, imagined you are, hoped you are, is nothing at all to that is-ness. These things simply don’t meet. The thought of you never connects with the fact of you. The gap between these two may indeed be micro-thin almost all the time, but it is nonetheless an unbridgeable gap. And so that person you think you are—in fact, any person you think you are—cannot ever be really you, because it is impossible for the thought, born of a fundamentally different substance, to ever have been inspired by the reality of you. And yet every single thing we ever think, in any form, as long as it is thought, is supposed to represent and explain and reflect us; it seems that is all that thinking is: ‘I tell a story to myself about myself; if it is not about me then what could it possibly be about?’ But truly I am saying, it is not about you at all; it is not about the reality of you; it was not born out of that reality; it did not emit from that reality; it has never seen or touched or known that reality in any way whatsoever. And so, when you ask yourself, who are all these thoughts about?, you must try to stretch your understanding by answering, they are truly about no one. They are thoughts, stories, images, premises; they may be explanations, judgments, predictions, or lamentations; and they are real as all of that, but they are not really about you. You cannot very likely take a break from generating thoughts; that is nearly impossible and wholly unnecessary. But you don’t have to continue imagining that that character who stars in every story your mind creates is actually you. We aren’t this, and as frightening as that seems, as much loss as that appears to entail, truly in the end it is fantastic news, because all of this, though fascinating in the complexity of its storylines, though heartbreaking in all of those things that come to pass—this is exhausting, and it is full of death, and there is not a single beautiful or loving thing here which seems to last. And so, it is nothing but good news when I tell you: you are not this. There will always be the you that is real, and it will never have suffered what the mind’s ‘you’ has suffered, and it will never know death, it will never know confusion, it will never be damaged and broken and resurrected the way that character in all your stories must be. It’s just here, and it always has been, and it will never be anywhere else.”


One Response to “Being”

  1. William said

    Thank you for sharing this.

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