Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

The Simplicity of What Is
Joan Tollifson

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Seeking the extraordinary, it is easy to overlook the simple and obvious truth. You are here. You know it beyond any doubt. You don't need a mirror or an outside authority to tell you. It is undeniable.

But are you the character in the story of your life, seemingly encapsulated in the bodymind, apparently solid and independent and autonomous and separate from everything else? Or is that character a mental image -- a bunch of thoughts, sensations, memories, narratives and beliefs? Is this sense of separation and encapsulation real, or is it a kind of mirage? Can you actually find the place where "inside" ends and "outside" begins? If all the imagined boundaries are seen to be unreal, what remains? What is it that is doubtlessly here?

Sensations, sounds of traffic, smell of exhaust, smell of rain, hum of a vacuum cleaner, cheeping of a bird, breathing, hearing, seeing, being. Not the words, but the actuality. Nothing special or grandiose. Just this, as it is.

Thought divides it up into body and mind, relative and absolute, spiritual and mundane, enlightenment and delusion, form and emptiness, self and not-self. But these are all words, ideas, concepts. Without the words, what is this?

The mind imagines that "you" can step back and take a look, as if subject and object are two separate things. Is it true?

The mind divides and reifies, creating (in imagination) "the seer," "the seeing," and "the seen" -- three apparently separate things. The actuality is undivided, no-thing at all. In this ubiquitous (and thus unseen) labeling activity, thoughts and images get overlaid on top of actual experiencing, and we learn to trust words and images, not actuality.

Words weave stories. They create mental movies that seem entirely believable and real. In this movie-world of thoughts and stories, it appears that "I" am inside this skin, and everything else is "out there." It appears that "I" am incomplete, forever in need of improvement or modification. "I" seek happiness and enlightenment in the future, chase after bigger and better experiences, compare "myself" to "others," and idolize those imagined to possess something special that "I" lack.

But is there actually a central agent at the helm doing all of this? Or do "your" thoughts and actions appear out of nowhere, just as the brain, the breath, the wind, the clouds, the trees, and the galaxies appear out of nowhere? How solid is "the skin" that seems to divide self from not-self?

Investigate this directly. Return attention to actuality. See for yourself. Can you actually find the doer, the thinker, the experiencer, the operator, the director, the one who is supposedly in charge here, or the one who appears to be trapped, the one who supposedly needs to awaken? You can find a mental image maybe, but is there anything of substance there? And for that matter, can you actually find some nebulous thing called "awareness" or "consciousness" or "the witness"? Or is there actually no-thing at all? Not some dead void. But this. Everything, just as it is.

Looking closely, isn't every apparent thing made up of vibrations, perceptions, sensations, memories, stories, ideas, beliefs, layers of mental-movies -- and finally, empty space? Where is it all happening (or appearing)? Out there? In here? Is the pain in my finger occurring in my finger or in my brain? And who is this "me" who seems to own both the finger and the brain?

And where does the brain come from? What produces the brain? There is obviously an intelligence that antedates the brain, the same intelligence that holds the galaxies together and creates the trees and the birds and the amazing web of ecological relationships from the subatomic to the intergalactic. This intelligence, this beingness, this aliveness is expressing itself as every form. Without the brain, our life would not appear, just as the TV show would not appear without the television set. But life itself, intelligence itself antedates the brain.

The brain is an object that appears in awareness. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Once again, words divide what is actually indivisible, creating apparent conundrums out of thin air.

Your experience appears to be happening independently from my experience; it seems like another world, as different as toe and finger. Yet is it possible that both are occurring in the same field of intelligence, the same One?

The words are just words. The forms appear and disappear. It seems that "you" have a problem: the rent is due, your car needs a tune-up, you can't stop smoking, you want to get enlightened, you need to find a new guru, you need to be more awake, you need to relax, or pay attention, or let go, or get a grip. But see that these are all thoughts, and that the root-thought is the "you" who apparently "has" all of these problems. Yes, the rent may be due, and you'll either get the money and pay it, or you won't. You'll either stop smoking or you won't. And actually, "you" won't be doing any of this, or at least, not "you" as thought imagines you: the character in the story of your life, the separate person. You as the totality, the One Being, are doing (or appearing as) all of it. And actually, no-thing is happening. Where is last night? Or yesterday morning? Or a minute ago?

There is only one moment. Here. Now. This. This one eternal, timeless moment accepts everything, just as it is, even the resistance and the upset and the apparent non-acceptance. This one moment is all there is. This one moment is unconditional love. This one moment is inescapable, for there is no one to escape, and no-thing to escape from.

The mind pretends to go away and imagines that this separation is possible. It loves to dream, make movies, amuse itself, invent problems and try to solve them: "Yes, but..What if.?" It asks. It craves the false security of belief systems, answers, methods and techniques. But true freedom is right here in the absolute simplicity of what is.

The movements of mind are like weather. No one owns the weather. It's not something to be conquered or eliminated. Simply see it for what it is: a great show, an appearance -- momentary and ephemeral, a mirage world.

Everything perceivable and conceivable is a kind of movie, like waves on the surface of the ocean. Look deeper and you discover that no-thing is happening. There is nobody to wake up. The problems are imaginary. What solution is needed to an imaginary problem?

Seeing this, there is joy and delight in the whole display, and in the most seemingly ordinary things: a bird cheeping, a computer humming, a thunderstorm, a clear day, a hamburger making its way to the mouth. This, right here, just as it is, is the holy reality, the face of God, the absolute truth. And the good news: it's not only unattainable; it's inescapable.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012