Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Question & Answer: Heart of the Matter

Question: I loved the piece about sitting in the garden ["Promenade"/Jan 2, 2009], and would be interested in knowing how the awakened life lives itself in your daily life.

Rodney: Nothing is different, and yet everything has changed. You can forget the old gurus’ tale that you suddenly become this blissed-out, sluggish-moving, semi-conversant person. For personalities tend to remain the same. Mine certainly has. I still can’t go anywhere without a couple of books in tow (blame my lovely mother--she was a librarian); I persist in having a Southerner’s keen reaction to rudeness; and I continue to dream, despite the myth that you no longer do so after self-realization. But my dreams are now brief, and with little or no intensity. (Nisargadatta and Ramana Maharshi also continued to dream, by the way.)

Significant differences? I used to get insomnia a couple of times a month for years and years. The only thing that would put me out was Ambien. Now, I go to sleep before 8:00pm. Sometimes, I even have to hasten to bed, lest I collapse--in somnolent exhaustion--in the middle of the living room floor!

One other difference needs mentioning: My relationships with people are richer. There is a compassion, honesty, and liveliness that wasn’t there before. Also, it’s quite something to look into the eyes of another person and behold--utterly and clearly--that radiant and unconditional truth that each of us are.

A couple of days before Christmas, I was standing in line at a downtown (Columbia) Subway to get one of their sumptuous Veggie max sandwiches. When the line stalled, I turned and gazed out the window at rush of passing cars, shoppers, and tourists in the chilly dusk. Through the dense plate glass, everything and everyone could be vividly seen, but not heard. That is how your lived existence becomes with the recognition of your natural state--suddenly, there is a certain hushness to life. Everything is accurately seen and heard, but your stand is in presence, not individuality. Thoughts and emotions come up, but they just a quickly fall away.

I go into these details only because self-cognizance--in its daily context--has been given short shrift. Questioners are curious (and rightly so) about what exactly changes with the advent of this understanding. So I’m replying to it as fully as possible, while also declaring that there is no “exactly” exactly. What occurs with the body/mind labeled “Rodney” won’t necessarily be the case with “John” or “Christine.” But the bottom line--always and unequivocally--is that your own ordinary awareness is the “heart of the Teaching.” It is irreducible, and it never wavers.

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