Voices of Awakening
Is there benevolence in the universe?
Q: How can we know that in the quiet that you speak of we will experience goodness and clarity? Do you presume a benevolent force in the universe?
CI: Look to your own nature because, after all, we are each a microcosm of totality, inseparable from the macrocosm. Those moments that you have known pure love, have they not been the truest? Have you not felt the most authentic, the most alive? Through all the strange turns and wanderings of your life, isn’t love what you have always yearned for, what you have wanted to express, what you have wanted to give? And can you imagine that on your deathbed the love that you have known and shared will be all that will have mattered?
So whenever you find yourself in doubt about a benevolent force in the universe, just return to this, back home, to your deeper nature, love itself.
Q: I know that is true in my heart of hearts. But how does that explain the horrors that go on in this world?
CI: Love gets twisted sometimes. And it shows up in all kinds of sad and tragic ways when it has been perverted, suppressed, and denied. Though love is everyone’s essence, not everyone is aware of that at all times. Stay with your own knowing of love. It transforms your vision of the horrors.
Q: It seems that things are worse than ever in our time.
CI: The world has been mad for as long as we know. And yes, it does seem to be worsening with our technological ability to destroy vast amounts of life in a single act and with many people willing to do so. In addition, we have the pressures of an overpopulated and polluted world. What is also unique to our time is that through extensive media we have awareness of the darkness all over the planet. This may result in a quickening of the light or we may be headed for our own extinction. In either case, choose to rest in your own goodness and offer as much understanding as you can. Even those whose behavior is an outrage and whom we might work to deter are seen as wayward children, blind to the consequences of their actions. “They know not what they do.” You will then stop worrying about how bad it is in our time. That worry will be transmuted into compassion and love for what is shining before you.
Q: Will you then know how to be, what to do, how to help out?
CI: Being and doing become one continuum. Action flows from silence and dissolves back into it. In this, you discover that love is running the show and you just follow orders. You take dictation. The love that you are says or does whatever needs to be said or done and you find yourself as surprised as anyone else by what is coming through you. It will be completely unique in its manifestation, something nobody ever taught or told you. After all, the great ones just went out and did their own thing. The Buddha, Christ, all of them. They didn’t follow anyone else’s formula. They followed only the dictates of their own hearts. And the power of their integrity in that surrender was such that religions were created around them, but they themselves were not out to create religions. They were just living their lives in a wild, unconventional and creative expression. What moved through them is now moving through you. You may find yourself blazing for thousands or you may discover that you were not as pivotal in changing the world as you once had hoped. In any case, your life will be authentic.
Q: In recognizing this true nature, is the body a distraction, like thoughts are a distraction?
CI: Thoughts are not necessarily a distraction, nor is the body. Thoughts are arising in present awareness and dissolving back into it. The awareness remains untouched, unstained, immaculate. Thoughts are only a problem if you are preoccupied with them, giving them all your attention. But thoughts in and of themselves are not some kind of enemy. Thoughts can be very useful, functional, and even entertaining. They are allowed in this vast clearing. No problem.
Q: Isn’t there a process? Don’t we need to go through some sort of mental purification to realize what you speak of?
CI: No. You don’t have to purify anything. It’s all done. This awareness, this love that you are is not diminished by your dips into neurosis nor exalted by your soaring or poetic insights. It is always pure and clear, here and now.
Q: I want to believe that.
CI: No need to believe this. Taste it. Experience it. This is the feast and this feast is so rich that we couldn’t possibly begin to take in even what is in this room. Think of it, each of us a human universe, yet made of all the same components. And all of this—the floor, the chairs, the flowers, the microphone, shimmering with this presence. Shining and shimmering and pulsating with life. Release your notions of “someday, I may experience this,” “if only,” or any sense of deficiency or postponement. There is no need to sit at the feast and feel hungry.
Q: Catherine, sometimes I have experienced what I think you are pointing to and it has come with a sense of boundlessness, nothing to hold onto, a sense of being in some great wilderness with no end in sight. It is occasionally frightening when I am in that state.
CI: You get used to it.
the lie of enlightenment
The promise of enlightenment has become the latest in a string of experiential obsessions to hit the western world.
This workshop, that teacher, this crystal, that meditation, this holy spot, that mantra … Always the promise is that if we DO SOMETHING then that which we seek will become available to us.
Yet where in Truth do you and I begin and end?
If consciousness is all there is, consciousness knows of no such thing as enlightenment. Consciousness is itself perfectly aware and has no need whatever of evolution.
The promise of enlightenment as it is so frequently touted, is rooted entirely in the idea of separation – that there is a ‘me’ who is separate from consciousness, who is separate from the workshop, teacher, crystal, meditation (ad nauseum), that there is a ‘me’ who can become enlightened.
Yet when we truthfully, rigorously and unrelentingly enquire into this ‘me’ what do we find?
Ultimately, it seems, the discovery is made that all that can be described, all that can be experienced, all that is phenomenal is transient. Including the me that I have been imagining myself to be.
And if it is transient, can it really be said to be true?
Surely what is absolutely true is immutable, unchangeable, never begins, never ends?
“Enlightenment’ then is not some final resting place, it is not even the beginning of a resting place. Enlightenment is not a noun, but a verb.
Enlightenment is the absolute dynamism of life as expressed through all things.
As such, there is no place and no time and no thing that is not already enlightening enlightened enlightenment.
The promise of enlightenment is a false promise – how can you not be that which you already are?
There is no process required to know yourself as awareness. Right now, simply stop, for just one moment, and ask yourself: “who am I?”
In the moment that you recognise the false idol of identity you will know true and complete liberation. What need is there of an ‘enlightenment process’ then?
The following excerpts are from some recent correspondence and dialogues.
Under no circumstances can you deny the fact of your being. Thoughts and experiences come and go, but you — as that presence of awareness — remain. Thought does not create you or define you in anyway. Your own presence is what all the thoughts appear within or upon. No attainment or special state is required. It is just noticing something so clear and evident that we have tended to overlook it. The simplicity is the key, really. Be as you are and let the thoughts and feelings flow freely. Do not grasp them or push them away. Your own natural being cannot be denied. It is effortless presence-awareness. That is shining in plain view at all times.
Your true nature is the undeniable ground of all appearances. It is not something to seek or achieve. No change in the content in the appearance (thoughts, feelings, experiences) is necessary to recognize what you are. It is that bare sense of pure presence or being itself. It is not inert and lifeless. It is alive, aware, cognizant. Being is aware, and awareness obviously exists. Being and awareness are two terms for the same thing, your true nature. And that is “no thing,” because it cannot be grasped or objectified by the mind or senses. Yet your true nature is clearly present because you can never say “I do not exist” or “I am not aware.”
If you can say “I exist, I am aware,” then you most definitively see and know present awareness. Have a look and notice that your own direct experience of being present and aware is utterly beyond doubt. At the point of this seeing, simply pause and be. Any expectation, evaluation, judgment, comparison or analysis will be stepping back into the mind — a subtle moving away from present awareness. See that this movement is never conclusive because you are trying to find an answer or confirmation in the mind. But the answer is not in the mind. As long as there is interest in the thoughts and stories of the mind, the interest goes there and the natural peace is overlooked.
Present awareness is pure clarity and peace. There is no need to get rid of the mind or battle thoughts. Only recognize or acknowledge the simple and undeniable presence of your true nature. Can there be thoughts if you are not present and aware? Can there be any experience unless you are? Can your being ever be doubted? Relax the focus on thoughts and abide as the knowing presence that is aware of thoughts. This is always here, so just get acquainted with what is already present.
The external events of life cannot touch your true nature, just like clouds in the sky do not touch the sun. The sun stands ever free and untouched, no matter what goes on below. In exactly same way, all thoughts, feelings, events and situations appear and subside right in present awareness. That is what you are. That is never lost, clouded over or compromised at any time. How can it be, when it is that very presence of awareness that is knowing all of the thoughts, feelings and experiences?
Awareness is. That is what you are. It is neither dualistic nor non dualistic, those being just further divisions in the conceptual mind. All teachings, concepts, objects, bodies, thoughts, states, feelings and so on are only momentary appearances in the awareness that you are. Any label applied to that awareness is simply another label appearing in that pure presence itself. All objects rise and set in that one awareness that you are and have no independent existence apart from that. Since they are never experienced apart from that, they must be only that. Thus, all there is is that. Nothing else, in truth, is. There is no separate, independent self at all. That is purely imagined. And from that imagined root concept comes all suffering, doubt, seeking and problems in life.
All doubts, worries, concerns and problems arise in the mind and only exist when they are being thought about. One solution to this is to try to silence the mind, but this is throwing the baby out with the bath water. The very attempt is just another activity of the mind and creates more mental turmoil. Even if the mind is temporarily suppressed or absorbed in some state or experience, it is bound to give trouble when it activates again. In response to suffering, most of us either seek happiness in experiences or attempt to silence the mind. Experience proves that neither of these approaches yields lasting satisfaction and peace. So the answer must lie in another direction.
The most important point is that fact that you are. Being is. And that being is not only present but brightly aware. It is that simple presence that allows you to say “I know I am.” That is the positive knowledge of your true nature. From there, you can see that you do not stand separate and independent from that at any time. So the separate, independent person is only assumed, but not really present.
We miss this, not because it is difficult but because it is too simple. Rather than grasping the simplicity of it, we tend to go back into the mind looking for complications and more work to do! The mind thrives on time, distant goals, difficult accomplishments and drama. Remember, this is about the natural state that is shining in plain view. Right here, right now, it is the seeing of your true nature as present awareness.
The imagined separate individual never was. So “who” needs what, when you are always and ever that? All that can happen is a thought appears in that. Even so, that remains free and clear, even when such a thought appears. What can a thought be, anyway, but an arising in that clear presence that you are, just like a wave arises and sets in the sea? Nothing exists with any independent nature apart from this.
Enlightenment, awakening, self-realization and so forth are all empty concepts. Speaking of such things keeps us seeking for something we think we do not already have. Presence-awareness is here and now. It is clearly in view for everyone, though perhaps overlooked. Some talk of awakening as a first recognition, followed by a subsequent expression or deepening. But for whom, when there is no one? There is no deepening or future expression. Such notions keep the assumed separate entity in full swing. That is why seekers are still locked in the game after years of satsangs, retreats, “awakenings” and so on. There is no before and after awakening, because there is no awakening, no entity and no time. These are all concepts. There is what is, here and now, and you are that and nothing else. From here, all attainments, stages, levels or deepenings simply evaporate into thin air or, rather, into ever-present awareness.
It is an error to equate knowing our true nature with silence. Many get hung up on this and begin to seek a state of silence, taking it to be a sign of spiritual experience. But silence and activity are two sides of a dualism and simply expressions in the appearance. In both silence and activity your true nature (awareness, being, presence) shines out full and clear and unaffected at all times. It is just as present and recognizable in the thick of activity as in moments of silence. Are you not present in both states? If this point is not clear, we may mistakenly seek quietude and assume it to be a “more spiritual” state.
Waiting for the “I” to drop away is a delusion. There is no “I,” so how can it drop away? There is just a simple noticing that what is here is only presence-awareness and that there is no separate one apart from this. Seeing this, the belief in the existence of the independent “I” is cancelled.
All suffering, doubts, questions and problems are appearances in the mind. They are simply thoughts and feelings about a seemingly limited, deficient, separate self. The belief in the existence of this separate self and the subsequent identification with this concept is the root driver of all of the self-centered thoughts and feelings. The concept of the separate self is the cause, and the self-centered thoughts are the effects. When you investigate the separate self, you discover it is absent. The plain truth is that the cause of suffering does not exist. We have been suffering, seeking, doubting and questioning only due to an unexamined concept, a false belief, a conceptual error. Resolving this error through clear seeing brings freedom from the suffering, doubts and problems of the separate self.
Awareness is present as what you are. You are awareness. It is not an attainment. Meditation or any other practice cannot bring you to awareness. You are already present and aware, even before you have any thought or intention to do anything. Awareness is not a personal state that comes and goes. The notion of being a person is what comes and goes. It arises and sets as a flow of conceptual thinking within awareness. The notion that awareness is a transient personal state that arises and passes away is false. Awareness, your natural presence or being, is present before, during and after any and all states or activities. Awareness is perpetually and effortlessly “attained” for everyone at all times.
If you try to think about your true nature or grasp it as an experience, it appears to slip through your fingers. All it is is the simple, clear and undeniable sense of being present and aware. It is the sense within you that allows you to say “I know I am” — nothing else. Though it is not an object or experience, it is undeniably here. If you doubt it, then look right now and see that your true nature is here. It must be here. Any residual interest in the self-centered stories in the mind keeps us (for a time) looking away from the sheer clarity and immediacy of presence-awareness. Always come back to the fact that you already are what you are seeking.
With the belief in the existence of the seeker exposed, what remains is peace, which is synonymous with happiness or the end of suffering. Snapping the hypnotic belief in an entity that was never present is the end of suffering because the cause of suffering is the belief in the separate “I.” Just like awareness or being, peace or the freedom from suffering is not an attainment or goal. It is the natural condition of what is.