The bodymind contracts like an asthmatic air passage or a congested heart. Panic is not in order. What is in order? Care. Attention. Attention to the contraction. Other names for the contraction:
Ball of doubt
The space outside the constriction is empty. The space inside the clinging ball of doubt is empty. One calls to the other, and they are the same. What does that mean?
It means “the poison is the cure”. It means the “ball of doubt” is a “wish-fulfilling gem”. It means awareness of the tight-fisted “No” finds itself in the midst of a vast, open-handed “Yes”. It means the fist is the hand is the vastness.
What does that mean?
It means the chronic complaint is liberation itself. It means “samsara is nirvana”. It means “namo-amida-buddha”. It means “ki-ho-ittai”. It means “I am That”. It means “Eureka!”
To the-eye-and-the-mind (teatm), external and internal objects (including teatm) appear to exist as horizontal, time-bound trajectories.
But from the brightly-lit laboratory of intuition, teatm and their objects are “seen” as vertical and timeless— “vertical” in a non-directional sense, as in, untraceable, impermanent, vanishing-up-and-out gone-ness.
This universal non-characteristic—verticality, or absence—is inescapable; it is the nature and essence of all (apparent) objects. It is, in fact, synonymous with presence. It defines teatm, intuition, you, and me.
Understand that this can’t be grasped or kept.
The effort to grasp and keep is suffering!
Fragment of a dialog
…So I locate the self-seeking, egoic position in this bodymind (or see it as this bodymind); it’s a dense white-knuckling—an unconscious clinging. I see it, I’m aware of it, I confess it.
I'm proposing to you that that's the end. There's nothing else, nothing else "to do" or to think or talk about. That is the instant of freedom. Again and again. Very simple.
Stripping it all down to bare bones, here we are. Nowhere. The egoic position is abandoned when "seen". Seeing it and abandoning it are simultaneous. We are free in-and-as this nothingness. Under all circumstances. If we say "Yes, but...", we're wasting our lives.
Do you agree?
“Yes, I agree.”
Then we’ve brought this discussion to a very sharp point, I think.
Even though I'm a proponent of a tongue-in-cheek "Secular Buddhist Conspiracy" (because I’ve been, for so long, irritated by the terms “spiritual” and “religious”), this is where we part from all-of-the-above, including “secular”.
And this sharp point is the jumping-off point where we become 100 percent responsible.
What I mean is, all teachers and teachings become irrelevant here, or secondary at best. We might confirm them, but they do not confirm us. We are now the center-point of the universe, and we find (again and again) that this center point is void.
Now every single objection to this present understanding is overcome by an intrepid awareness. The “No” (the doubt, the resistance) presents itself, helpfully, and is overcome 100 percent of the time, tit for tat, no exceptions. Every objection, including: “But, that’s absolutism!” is overcome by this wordless understanding. In a sense, the objection is overcome byitself because its mere attendance here is cause for its clarification and obliteration. We should thank it for its self-sacrifice.
Stay on the left side of that comma! Our internal objections are our would-be internalized leaches. And beyond us, when external “authorities” voice these "yes, but" objections, they become our oppressors if we pay them heed. Yet, it has to be said, in their blindness they teach us about our own blindness. So they are, paradoxically, our blessed gurus! Our Buddhas! We should shut up and listen to them! Why argue? Why counter-pose? Why resist nothingness?
This is all testable, falsifiable. My words are instantly forgettable. The truth is in the living, the doing. I would submit that the alternative is self-imposed hell. But that has to be verified for oneself.
The No-sequence, in Context
I feel a painful inward-turning, a resistance, a doubt.
I look at that. I turn inward toward the inward-turning and look right at it. It is always available!
I am aware, simultaneously, of this inward-turning’s boundlesscontext.
But I stay with this inward-turning, this bodymind contraction, this inversion.
I discover that, in a word, this contraction is “No”. No to this, to whatis. No to its context. No, unknowingly, to freedom.
This No is a petulant, infantile rejection of everything that isn’t constant bliss, intoxication, or deliciousness.
Call it “self-power”. This is what this bodymind is constructed to do. Maybe it’s the only thing it can do.
It is the cause of my suffering. The effort to feel good causes suffering! Doing, here, causes suffering.
This effort, this contraction, is like a fist that I am unconsciously, or unnecessarily, clenching. I am clenching even though my fist is empty. I’m dream-clenching. Fruitlessly.
When I wake up to this fact, the clenching loosens automatically, on its own, without effort.
That loosening is the boundless context; it contains all tightening.
Non-effort is not achieved. Rather, effort is observed, confessed. Every moment.
All objections to this are head-stuff, neither good nor bad. Conceptualizing here is self-power, fist-contraction.
Nothing is settled upon. The “No” is observed. And it’s nothing, again and again. And again.
The “No” is my problem, my core, and it's empty.
Now I am loosed upon the world, an ordinary fool.
The most accessible and immediate “non-path” to this (prior, inherent) freedom is zange, confession.
Zange is praxis: theory and practice combined.
The theory (head-stuff, concepts, beliefs, understanding) is of impermanence. Impermanence is simultaneous presence-plus-absence. Nothing is. Everything is not. The object is absent. Reifications all, but that’s language. We inevitably cling to these ideas.
The practice is letting go—of everything, including theories. But the one who would let go is nothing, letting go of nothing. Letting go is impossible to grasp! What to do?
Confess (recognize, observe) the hopelessness and impossibility. Confess the simultaneous desire to keep and let go. Confess the chronic, painful, lifelong frustration. Confess the lifelong sense of failure and depression. Confess the manic-depressive or childish cycles: up/down, happy/unhappy, superior/inferior…
Dissatisfaction and failure to grasp and hold; failure in general; fear of failure; chronic desire for more or something different; all of the above...These, collectively, are the universal Gift. Confess it all.
Confession is praxis. Honest self-confession is a leap into the truth of nonduality. Nothing is, and nothing is excluded. How prove that? How act on that? By confessing your inability to do so.
What is more accessible, more immediate, than dissatisfaction? You can’t say “I don’t have that” or “I can’t confess that”! Everyone has, and can.
Every word is the same word. Every view is the same view.
Every experience is not the same experience. The zange-experience, exercising the freedom to confess, is the Ultimate. It is full circle. It is complete.
What lies beyond the Ultimate is its infinite, unperturbed context. Both are yours simultaneously when you do the easiest thing in the world: confess (silently) your present suffering.
Do this, then look up from yourself, and out.
"A man crawls for years on his stomach with his eyes closed. Then one moment he opens his eyes, and he's in a garden. It's spring."
[Trans. Coleman Barks]
There’s a lot of work to do. How are you supposed to do it if you’re always bogged down mentally, emotionally?
There’s a lot of work to put off until tomorrow. How are you supposed to relax if you’re always bogged down mentally and emotionally?
You discover that you’re not bogged down, that’s how. It's a paradox. You’re bogged and you're not bogged.
You have energy. You have energy enough to bog, so you bog yourself, but you're unconscious. When you wake up to what you're doing, it loses its impetus. You're only bogged down while you're bogging.
...No, this is, in fact, easier done than said. Your bogging habit has it backwards.
Slow down, shut up, and observe yourself for a moment. Notice that you are like a traffic jam with north- and south-bound traffic in the same lane. North-bound is trying to get to work, south-bound wants to get home and relax. It’s obvious that one of these flows is going to have to surrender. If both refuse, then you remain jammed, bogged. And guess what: they both refuse.
Notice the neighborhood, the universe, that surrounds the bogged-down highway. Notice that it is not bogged down.
Get out of your car and traffic for a moment. Don’t worry about making things worse for the other drivers, they’re not going anywhere. Just step out. And by “step out” I mean: open your lens, just for a moment, to the wild but un-bogged infinity that is all around you.
Once you’ve seen how easy and immediate this is, how accessible it is, you can step outside your car, your traffic, whenever you want to (unless, of course, there’s an actual blaring emergency, a survival issue, in which case none of this will occur to you).
Step Four (optional):
Get back into your car, back into your traffic bog and all your difficulties. Why not? It’s nothing to you.
PS: This is not a prescription, method, or discipline, and there are no prerequisites. Internal traffic problems are not hereby eliminated (you will not become a better ego). The point is to see the infinite field that contains the traffic jam and to fall into it. Ultimately, it’s your own reality.
PPS: Treat this as a rational experiment. Compare the effect, if any, to the alternative. And then live your life.
We're not talking
We’re not talking here about the full-spectrum of human experience, just the seat of suffering, which is found in the torso. Not even madness is suffering until it reaches the torso: the heart, the gut. So, it would make sense to stop worshiping the head and start paying attention to the torso.
The torso doesn’t have words for this, so skip the words, go straight to the sensation in the gut. Now, without adding words, without focusing on thoughts, stop doing what you’re doing. Stop squeezing.
It’s easy when you admit that the squeezing is your doing, and when you drop all thoughts about it (they are not helpful).
There is no resolution here except resolution, and there are no reasons for this resolution. Reasons belong to the head, and the head is secondary.
Even though there are many, many great reasons to hurt yourself the way you do with this painful constriction in the gut, forget the reasons, just stop the constriction for no reason at all.
When you do this, it will seem too simple, too “merely physical”, but this is a very simple, physical matter. Complications come from the head, but the head is Step 2 in a one-step “process”.
Return to non-suffering whenever to want to. If you say this can’t be done, then it can’t be done. If you say this can be done, then it can be done.
Get lost in tangents, follow paths, practice methods, whatever, but then knock it off, it’s all a waste of time if what you’re really after is an end to your self-inflicted suffering.
This is not an effort toward radical change in the bodymind, it’s the simple ending of effort—whenever you want to.
Why change? You know you haven’t changed yet after all your efforts. So stop changing now.
This is fully realized the first time you discover it, and it remains the same every time. There is no deepening—deepening belongs to the head; deepening is beside the point.
This is as simple, shallow, superficial as relaxing your fist. You don’t have to splay your hand wide, stretching your fingers out like an over-achiever; just stop clenching. “Doctor, it hurts when I make a fist.” “Then stop making a fist.”
This can’t be called easy. It’s easier than easy. It’s off the scale, prior to zero. Burden-free. Weightless. And waitless: this is not a time-bound process. It has already been taken care of.
This is as reliable, available, and accessible as your chronic anxiety, fear, greed, depression, suffering. It’s a one-to-one ratio: it’s there for every single one of these reactions, these moods. It’s the flipside, like a light-shadow wherever darkness reigns.
It’s as simple as this: (1) if there's an object, (2) there’s infinite context, and (3) this context contains, absorbs, "embraces" and is "one with" (1).
If this is studied in the head, it’s not being studied. This must be studied in the “gut”: the chest, the constriction, the torso-tension, the poison factory. What is found in the head is the effect, the poison product, not the poison producer, although thought-inflammation does make gut-matters worse. Thought-inflammation, when noticed, is rejected as the focus. Mental is also physical, but attention goes gut-ward not head-ward. What happens upstairs will take care of itself, or not, like noisy neighbors.
It has to be emphasized here that there is absolutely no prohibition. These are not rules. The noisy upstairs neighbors can be visited anytime for any reason. Pay them a visit and mix it up with them, sit down with them, have a drink with them, sing with them, worship with them, meditate with them, have an orgy with them, or have a knock-down-drag-out fight with them—whatever, it is completely irrelevant. Eventually you will come back downstairs.
1. Object (of attention, a tension object). 2. Context (absolutely everything else). 3. No boundary.
1. No boundary. 2. Boundary. 3. Same.
1. Sameness. 2. Multiplicity manifesting as objections to sameness. 3. Emptiness of 1 & 2.
1. Locate the heavy repository of misery in the torso (arrows pointing in). 2. There is a simultaneous noticing of the boundless space outside (untouched by) this misery—the space containing everything outside the body, outside the room, outside the building, outside the neighborhood, outside the planet, outside that, outside that… (arrows pointing out). 3. While thought gets stuck in 1 or 2, breath (torso) metabolizes both (arrows fall to the ground).
1. Hope is glimpsed. 2. Hopelessness, like gravity, pulls you back down. 3. One breath in, one breath out.
1. Thought-stories make up a massive, monstrously heavy imaginary dome constructed of old and new mental activity that catches and absorbs all, turning everything into itself, into its heavy, repetitive patterns. 2. Outside the dome is everything that is not thought. Even when the dome snatches thoughts of the beyond-dome and makes them part of itself, the beyond-dome as context asserts itself again and again irrepressibly, automatically (as whenever a discrete object is identified, that identification necessarily requires a context that is not the object). 3. Right in the center of the oppressive dome is a small pocket of air that is identical to the beyond-dome; the breath, like a bellows, exchanges in for out and out for in.
“There was something missing in me, an emptiness, a spiritual hole that was wonderfully filled when I found X.”
It wasn’t a hole, it was a dent, in the surface, a deflation in your sphere. And it wasn’t “filled”, it was pushed back to round by the force that flows naturally outward. That force is impermanent life, and the dent was caused by your "karmic" (nature-nurture-action-reaction-interaction) habit of trying to pull life back in and keep it.
You may have found X, but that thing didn’t fill you—you responded to it and then you were full-to-bursting, but the response, the “healing”, was your own out-flowing, not a grasping-pulling-keeping.
Pleasure, stimulation, tension-release, intoxication are not problems until they become self-harm, and even self-harm may be intoxicating to you. There are no rules except your rules, no values except your values.
What do you value? Intoxication and stimulation above everything else? Or has that run its course? Do you now value something gentler and simpler? Something ordinary and anonymous?
Must you compete with each prior sensation? Always? Or have you come to value peace? Can you, finally, find that peace that has no prerequisites? That peace that flows out, from you?
Chemical drugs and thought-drugs are accumulations that eventually block the outward flow. Ideas, concepts, methods, disciplines, practices, views, can all become thought-drugs that trigger real physical dependency and withdrawal symptoms. If you value X, come back later when your tolerance becomes so high and the high becomes so rare that you can no longer value it, and you are forced, by life, to value something else.
The “light” flows out, from you. You can’t become dependent on this impermanent light because it’s not just flowingfrom you, it’s what you are (find out for yourself if this is true). And here’s the jumping-off point that your deep-seated fear resists: You can’t be this light and eat it too! You can’t keep it. You have to let it flow. And if that feels like surrendering to death—it is!
That scary feeling is a bridge. Stop there, breathe, look around…
Surrendering to death, just for a moment, means you are no longer a slave to your programming. This death is the death of blind belief in self-effort for self-benefit—not a rejection of effort in practical matters but in this core matter that has no chores, no obligations; this impractical, non-functional, useless, pointless core freedom that contributes nothing to society or corporation or organization or family—or self.
“I’ve lost it”
If you've "benefited" from this insight you might later find yourself, in discomfort, trying to remember what led you to it, as if what led you to it was an idea, a phrase, something conceptual. You won't rediscover it that way because it's non-conceptual. But you will rediscover it—you have rediscovered it—because the discomfort itself is the physical reminder of both the problem and the solution. Celebrate discomfort!
Nothing original or strange, just the obvious:
Every apparent object (O) has a context, a field (F), that apparently is not it.
O is impermanent, and F is impermanent.
But “is”, of the verb form “to be”, reifies. An impermanent thing is always different, always something else. In other words, something that “is” impermanent “is”, in fact, not.
O and F are not.
Their absences are equal, identical, indistinguishable. By “extension”, nothing is distinguished from anything else.
And nothing is “of” something else.
This is a thought experiment, but our thoughts “are” impermanent, which means they “are” not at all. They are not now, and they were not.
“How can that be? Are we not thinking?”
It is obvious that we are not thinking. We might ride bikes but we don’t think thoughts. There is no thinker of thoughts; (apparent) thoughts are reified after the (apparent) fact. And those reifications are memories that burn like flames that burn like flames...
“How can that be?”
Introduce timelessness. Time is a concept. In this concept, there could be no "passage of time" without time segments. Time segments could not be segments without gaps between them, and if there are gaps in time, those gaps are timeless! That means segments are separated by gaps during which no time elapses, which is equivalent to no gaps at all. If there are no gaps in time, there are no discrete moments, and without discrete moments, what is time? Is it one moment? If so, it does not pass, and so, it is meaningless.
We are left without time, and without objects. We are left without “we are”.
“So what? What about suffering?”
What I am trying to describe
What I am trying (and failing) to describe is this inherent, unmerited, unwarranted, non-contingent essential freedom. And I want to shout about how immediate, how present it is, always. I want my friends to recognize this, to celebrate this quick-and-easy (prior) liberation from forms...
Even now, in a blasé mood, I’m staring at it and it’s staring at me. It says to me, of course you are forgiven your stupidity, your vanity, your clinging; it is capable only of forgiveness, or call it: absolute indifference. It stares at me with (as) absolute indifference.
What it stares at is constructed of the fluid (absent) form of that same absolute indifference; this material, these atoms’ atoms, are identical to it. No, they are it. This reality, if looked at from its timeless edge, places enlightenment and delusion in the same thimble.
Every thought about it is wrong, but insignificant; all vanities are insignificant here; this vanity is insignificant here. Significance is insignificant here.
This is light (weightless) and light (brilliant). It is, at once, untouchable and everything. It’s not “in here” like an idea or an identity, it’s “out there” like the universe that contains this thimble. I don’t care what you think because I don’t care what I think. I think all the usual stuff, and I don’t care because it doesn’t care. Even my familial caring is dwarfed by this infinitely compassionate carelessness.
Think how impossibly far away almost everything is. That impossible distance is the space in which I sit. It seems to ask: Do you really think your idiot thoughts are “you”?
"Secular", as far as I'm concerned, means right-here-right-now, real, down-to-earth, in the body, as opposed to pie-in-the-sky.
“Secular Buddhism” should be redundant, but some people are Buddhist mystics. That view is opposed here, not with authority or hatred, but dialectically and impiously, as one small voice in the global conversation.
One definition of “religious” is scrupulousness: paying very close attention. Some of us are religious in our attention to the unreal; we try again and again, religiously, to be honest about our unreality. We confess, like sinners, our chronic attachment to unreal (conceptual) living.
Some of us seditiously pluck the essence of various Buddhist and other non-dual teachings from their outdated and superstitious contexts and hose them off like ducks stuck in an oil spill. We wash off all the dogmas, all the dogmatists, all the magical thinking—even all the Buddhas!
Secular, here, means physical, where the body and mind are one physical unit. Secular Buddhism, here, means paying attention, religiously, to the bodymind’s habitual tendency to contract into its fear-greed mode, the coiled position that ferments a self-flavored, hallucinatory world of suffering.
To the degree that we are unaware of this thought-tangent quicksand, this clinging-grasping fear-greed habit, we live in darkness as unconscious slaves, automatons, and lunatics. When aware of it, we live in light, even though nothing whatsoever is changed. These are personal metaphors based on repeated physical, material, painful first-hand experience.
We are free in (and as) this light, and that means we are free to do what we are doing: cling and grasp with abandon. Which is nothing at all.
(The “we” here is what makes this a conspiracy—anonymous, invisible, imaginary.)
This view may be opposed by vested “authorities”, those with another kind of secular investment: careerists, self-appointed leaders, shepherds. But some of us can no longer stomach these half-baked vendors, these parasites. Happily, light is the best...emetic. We are cleansed of them. We are free of them.
This version of “secularism” is the opposite of idealism—idealism defined as seeking an ideal state, attempting to escape from what’s real and present. Escape is a natural reflex, but in this "Buddhism" of personal freedom it has no place. Progressive paths feel like paths of confusion. "Practicing" one’s way toward an ideal state is, to use the well-worn simile, like trudging down railroad tracks seeking the horizon-point where the two tracks merge into one.
Progressive-pathism can be a psychological and economic system with serfs and lords, or, as Lin Chi would put it, guests and hosts (“Be the host, not the guest!” he shouts).
A theme of this website is that so-called “paths” (spiritual or secular) are horizontal digressions in this vertical (timeless) reality. We know, we trust, instinctively that this is true and that we have nowhere to go and nothing to do. Which doesn't mean this isn't the most urgent of matters!