Rodney: That’s right. That is one of the many wonderful things about nonduality: It is pointing to something that you already are, which is awareness, of course. It is simply being glossed over. Your attention and alertness are on everything but that. Now, I’m not being excessively critical of you here. I’m speaking about an issue that is prevalent among all seekers. Surprisingly, the ease of Self-knowing depresses many spiritual enthusiasts because that want to believe that it’s way more complicated than it is, that it is difficult and arduous and takes many decades to grasp. They want to think that because it serves their ego, it plays into the notion of self-determination and winning against the odds and all of that wayward esoteric fluff.
Question: That if I can just sit cross-legged for 12 hours, directly facing a wall, I can get this.
Rodney: That you too can be enlightened. Exactly! But just to be clear: Determination is a good thing. Nisargadatta often said that the greatest quality that a spiritual person can have is earnestness. And it is a very special quality indeed. Why? Because you feel that your heart is leading the way. Your focus is no longer on the constricted “Me,” but rather, on something that is 100% present and is existing as you. You’ve been told that there is nothing other than That. Now you are attempting to see this for yourself.
Q: It reminds of those optical illusion drawings that seem to be one image, but when you look at it carefully, is also a second image (such as an old lady when looked at one way and a young woman when seen another way). But things can cleared up fairly easily with a little pointing or questioning from someone, e.g., "Can you see the other image in the drawing?" Once the two images are seen, you wonder how you missed the second image in the first place.
Rodney: Precisely. The secondary image has been there all along. It isn’t moving, emerging, or manifesting in any way whatsoever. It is simply existing within the picture. It’s remaining as it is. It’s up to you to see that there is another image, another picture within that particular image. That recognition isn’t difficult at all—if you take a close, calm, pausing look at the picture. The face is there for the seeing; therefore, this isn’t time-dependent at all. At all! You could perceive the smiling face within the picture at anytime. You can sit in any position you want. You can even stand or stretch out on a green, Goodwill sofa!
Q: I feel I have been blessed with glimpses of the understanding, but it is clearly not yet complete. The understanding does not consistently stay "in focus.”
Rodney: It’s not a matter of keeping it in focus; but rather, of recognizing that it remains there on its own—that it doesn’t fade in the least. What is there is a nearly palpable presence of serene spaciousness. Other teachers may describe it differently, but that is what it is for this writer. And be assured that this isn’t some “optical illusion.” It is your natural and ever-present state. It’s ordinary on one level and exceptional on another. No words can encapsulate it. That’s why some of the brilliant and astute ancient sages did not go into depth on how self-realization felt. As a writer, you are damned from the get-go! Yet, there is a pouring forth here of what I hope are well-crafted approximations.
Q: Oh, but they are! Yesterday, I woke up thinking of what all the glimpses have had in common. Earlier glimpses, while beautiful experiences, did not reveal what was being pointed to. At first, the beauty was thought to be in the experience itself. However, later glimpses began to disclose something far more wondrous than just the experience. The glimpses had begun pointing to something much more mysterious, much more miraculous than the content of the experience could ever be. In retrospect, it could be seen that the commonality in all these glimpses, was a boundless expansiveness, an omnipresence, an all knowingness, an absolute perfection that was not contained in a body or a mind. Yet, the experience itself was in no way separate from this boundless presence. During these glimpses, everything was experienced as one.
Rodney: Or Oneness, Presence, Awareness, etc. Yes, any of those would be appropriate.
Q: I am particularly fond of a glimpse that happened when I was with my daughter about 9 years ago. It was my son's 21st birthday and being of legal drinking age, he wanted to go wine tasting in wine country, about an hour from our home. As my daughter was only 19 then, she could not sample the wine so after the third winery, my daughter and I stayed outside at the next winery while my husband and son went inside. It was a beautiful sunny day. My daughter and I laid back on the ground, side by side, staring up into 60 foot trees. Branches swayed in the breeze, and the leaves glistened with a golden, ethereal sunlight.
Rodney: It sounds lovely.
Q: Suddenly, I felt as if I was being drawn right out of the body into a vast expansiveness. I could hear my daughter talking next to me. I knew that she was crying, telling me that life was terribly difficult for her right now (she was in her first year of college). Under normal circumstances, as a mother, I would have been hurting because my daughter was in pain, I would have offered her advice, I would have tried to rescue her; yet, from this vast expansive space, while continuing to stare up into the treetops, I simply reached over and took her hand. As she continued to pour her heart out to me, I stroked her hand with my thumb and truly listened to her with such deep, honest compassion. There was absolutely nothing to be thought or said on my part—only to be here with her in this vast, expansiveness. It was the first time that I had experienced what compassion really was, what it truly meant.
Rodney: Yes, I can see how that would be a very powerful event for you. But that expansiveness and compassion, as grand as they were, were movements and experiences in presence. I’m not speaking against empathy here. I’m merely redirecting us to the unalterable. When you come to this understanding yourself, things will be a lot quieter. If such an expansive-moment happens then (and it probably won’t), you will simply see it for what it is. You won’t even “let it go” because there won’t be a “Me” to perform the action. There will only be this hushed presence of awareness in which all things arise and fall. That awareness is ripe with sereneness and tranquility, so anything that occurs within it appears to happen at a slight remove—except, of course, for your body and nervous system’s automatic responses, which are there for self-preservation. See that there is a halcyon, unmoving vastness within any pause—any single one of them! No pause is more significant than another, except when you are alert to the profoundness within it. This is all part of the aptly termed “understanding”: That you are the pause.
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— Gail Brenner, Ph,D., Clinical Psychologist, speaker, and author of the forthcoming The Way of Yes: Finding Peace and Happiness Right at the Heart of Your Messy, Scary, Brilliant Life."