Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:

Click here to go to the next issue

Highlights Home Page | Receive the Nondual Highlights each day

Nondual Highlights Issue #2034 Wednesday, January 26, 2005 Editor: Mark


Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.

Joseph Campbell,
Creative Mythology, contributed to AlphaWorld by Sandra

Awareness and Experience - Isaac Shapiro - September 2004.

Let us consider what we all call experience. The entire universe, life, time, space, our family, everyone we know, is in this moment simply experience to us. We experience all the above through five senses, so I am calling all experience, sensations. These sensations are then given name and form by our ability to think and make distinctions.

Stop for a moment and simply experience the totality of your experience simply as sensations now. Notice that what you experience, your sensations, are changing every moment and therefore cannot be described. In order to describe your experience of Now, you would have to speak volumes and as soon as you spoke, your experience would be already different.

Notice if when you experience like this, without trying to quantify or qualify your sensations, if there is a sense of boundary between you and your experience.

Notice that usually we think we can describe our experience and in this idea there is a sense of "I". Notice that in trying to describe our sensations, this activity appears to give the non-existent "I" a sense of control.

Now notice that you are aware of any experience. This awareness is already present. Whilst being this awareness, see if you can describe awareness.

You will notice that this is impossible.

Where is it?


Are there any boundaries?


What is in it?

Everything. We have two words awareness and experience, but really they are only words. We can’t describe either.

Notice if there is any boundary between awareness and experience. We have the capacity to objectify experience and then it seems like there is an observer and what is observed. This gives a sense of "I." From this we can see that the sense of "I" is an activity and does not actually exist. As soon as the activity ceases, like in deep sleep, there is no sense of "I"

When experiencing the totality of our experience of Now, there is no possibility to objectify, hence no sense of "I".

Now notice what happens if you would like to have a different experience from the experience you are having. Firstly, is it possible? If the thought that it is possible to have a different experience that what we are having is entertained, then it looks as if "I" can do something about it.

As soon as we do not want the experience we are having, the not wanting it is also an experience and adds another layer into the tapestry of experience. Simply, what it boils down to is tightening up. Mostly we never consciously examine this tightening up and have an unconscious belief that this tightening up helps. Very often, we have resistance to this tightening up, which locks it in. What we can notice about experience, is that it is always changing. When we don’t want the experience we are having, we freeze-frame it, or objectify it, because we can’t get rid of something that is changing. So in order to get rid of an experience or change it, we have to make it into something.

Check and see if what we make our experience into when we don’t want it, actually exists?

The only human drama there is, is not wanting the experience/ sensations we are having now. See if this is true! Not wanting the experience we are having, feels uncomfortable in the body and this registers as a problem. Our thinking is the capacity to solve problems, so our thinking tries to help by projecting what the problem is and what the solution could be. When we don’t want the experience we are having, I am going to call this resisting, all that happens is that our experience gets more intense or subjectively we call it worse. Now that it is worse we don’t want it either, so we resist again, which makes it worse and now that it is worse we don’t want it either, so we resist, ad infinitum. In a matter of moments we feel out of control, the experience we don’t want is still there and we feel overwhelmed. Our experience feels bigger than us. Most people spend their entire lives feeling overwhelmed. There is a sense of too much to do and there is a constant underlying feeling of stress and the feeling that we have to run just to survive.

For most of us, the habit is to tighten up as soon as we wake, if we don’t wake up already contracted, from what we have dreamt. We do this by thinking of what we have to do this day and unconsciously or consciously believing that this tightening up somehow helps us to survive.

Once we have tightened up, this registers as a problem and then our mind tries to help .. etc

In western psychology, what we call the subconscious mind is everything we never want to experience again and everything we think we want to experience, in other words all our unfilled desires, that we think will make us happy. All of this is our resistance to our experience NOW. This is what our thinking produces when we have sensations we are resisting, in trying to help us by identifying what the problem is and what the solution could be. As soon as we think we know what the problem is, in other words, whats wrong outside or inside of us, we project that what is "wrong": needs changing or fixing. We spend enormous amounts of energy trying to do the impossible. The non-existent "I" trying to change, fix or get rid of what doesn’t exist.

Stop. Notice what your mind is constantly busy with. Notice if what your mind is working with in this moment brings you peace. Could you for a moment simply let go of believing that thinking will help? Could you let go of believing that tightening up will help?

In this moment, being embodied awareness, aware in every cell, simply being, how is it? Notice if there is any boundary. Notice that all experience is welcome. Some call this unconditional love or everything. It is never the experience we are having that troubles us, it is whether or not there is an automatic habit of trying to not have the experience we are already having that troubles us.

Notice where in your body you experience not wanting the experience you are having. How does it feel? Can you notice or find anything worthwhile about resisting your experience? Could you let go of resisting having the experience you are having?

Most people measure themselves and their lives by their experience. What we could call waking up, is a shift, where we no longer believe in the describing of our sensations. In other words, we stop believing our thinking and the whole activity of trying to separate from our sensations.

Notice, that, That which is aware, is not a thing, not an object that you can sense. Some call this nothing. Where does this begin and end?

No beginning no end. This answers the koan, where were you before you were born.

A famous sage said, "When I know I am nothing this is wisdom and when I know I am everything this is love and between the two my life flows."

- Isaac Shapiro; more here:

Buddhism is not a belief system. It's not about accepting certain tenets or believing a set of claims or principles. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Buddhism is about seeing. It's about knowing rather than believing, hoping or wishing. It's also about not being afraid to examine anything and everything, including our own personal agenda.... Buddhism is about seeing. That's all."

- Steve Hagen,
Buddhism, Plain and Simple published by Tuttle, contributed to DailyDharma by DharmaGrandmother

Question: If I try to make the `Who am I?' enquiry, I fall into sleep. What should I do?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Persist in the enquiry throughout your waking hours. That would be quite enough. If you keep on making the enquiry till you fall asleep, the enquiry will go on during sleep also. Take up the enquiry again as soon as you wake up.

Question: How can I get peace? I do not seem to obtain it through Vichara (enquiry).

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Peace is your natural state. It is the mind that obstructs the natural state. If you do not experience peace it means that your Vichara (enquiry) has been made only in the mind. Investigate what the mind is, and it will disappear. There is no such thing as mind apart from thought. Nevertheless, because of the emergence of thought, you surmise something from which it starts and term that the mind. When you probe to see what it is, you find there is really no such thing as mind. When the mind has thus vanished, you realise eternal peace.

Question: When I am engaged in enquiry as to the source from which the `I' springs, I arrive at a stage of stillness of mind beyond which I find myself unable to proceed further. I have no thought of any kind and there is an emptiness, a blankness. A mild light pervades and I feel that it is myself bodiless. I have neither cognition nor vision of body or form. The experience lasts nearly half an hour and is pleasing. Would I be correct in concluding that all that was necessary to secure eternal happiness, that is freedom or salvation or whatever one calls it, was to continue the practice till the experience could be maintained for hours, days and months together?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: This does not mean salvation. Such a condition is termed Manolaya or temporary stillness of thought. Manolaya means concentration, temporarily arresting the movement of thoughts. As soon as this concentration ceases, thoughts, old and new, rush in as usual; and even if this temporary lulling of mind should last a thousand years, it will never lead to total destruction of thought, which is what is called liberation from birth and death.

The practitioner must therefore be ever on the alert and enquire within as to who has this experience, who realises its pleasantness. Without this enquiry he will go into a long trance or deep sleep (Yoga Nidra). Due to the absence of a proper guide at this stage of spiritual practice, many have been deluded and fallen a prey to a false sense of liberation and only a few have managed to reach the goal safely.

The following story illustrates the point very well. A yogi was doing penance (tapas) for a number of years on the banks of the Ganges. When he had attained a high degree of concentration, he believed that continuance in that stage for prolonged periods constituted liberation and practised it. One day, before going into deep concentration, he felt thirsty and called to his disciple to bring a little drinking water from the Ganges. But before the disciple arrived with the water, he had gone into Yoga Nidra and remained in that state for countless years, during which time much water flowed under the bridge. When he woke up from this experience he immediately called '`Water! Water!'; but there was neither his disciple nor the Ganges in sight.

The first thing that he asked for was water because, before going into deep concentration, the topmost layer of thought in his mind was water and by concentration, however deep and prolonged it might have been, he had only been able temporarily to lull his thoughts. When he regained consciousness this topmost thought flew up with all the speed and force of a flood breaking through the dykes. If this were the case with regard to a thought which took shape immediately before he sat for meditation, there is no doubt that thoughts which took root earlier would also remain unannihilated. If annihilation of thoughts is liberation, can he be said to have attained salvation?

Sadhakas (seekers) rarely understand the difference between this temporary stilling of the mind (Manolaya) and permanent destruction of thoughts (manonasa). In Manolaya there is temporary subsidence of thought-waves, and though this temporary period may even last for a thousand years, thoughts, which are thus temporarily stilled, rise up as soon as the Manolaya ceases.

One must therefore watch one's spiritual progress carefully. One must not allow oneself to be overtaken by such spells of stillness of thought. The moment one experiences this, one must revive consciousness and enquire within as to who it is who experiences this stillness. While not allowing any thoughts to intrude, one must not, at the same time, be overtaken by this deep sleep (Yoga Nidra) or self-hypnotism.

Though this is a sign of progress towards the goal, yet it is also the point where the divergence between the road to liberation and Yoga Nidra take place. The easy way, the direct way, the shortest cut to salvation is the enquiry method. By such enquiry, you will drive the thought force deeper till it reaches its source and merges therein. It is then that you will have the response from within and find that you rest there, destroying all thoughts once and for all.

- posted to MillionPaths by Viorica Weissman


top of page