“Of all the pitfalls in our paths and the tremendous delays and wanderings off the track I want to say that they are not what they seem to be. I want to say that all that seems like fantastic mistakes are not mistakes, all that seems like error is not error; and it all has to be done. That which seems like a false step is the next step.”
– Agnes Martin, from Writings
Present experiencing is always effortlessly being just exactly the way it is. It requires no belief and is impossible to doubt. What is doubtful and doubtable are all our ideas about this flow of experiencing.
What appears is like an ever-changing kaleidoscopic Rorschach blot that the pattern-seeking mind divides up into abstract categories with imaginary boundary lines. Thought labels, interprets, and weaves narratives around the imaginary “things” it has carved out of the whole, freezing or concretizing them into seemingly solid, persistent objects. One of those imaginary objects is the apparently separate, encapsulated “me” who seems to be authoring “my” thoughts, making “my” choices, and observing “myself.” But can this “me” actually be found?
Isn’t it actually nothing more than an ephemeral cloud of passing thoughts, mental images, stories, memories and imaginations, often accompanied by tight, dense or contracted sensations in the body, sensations which are themselves protean and without any enduring substance?
When attention shifts from the conceptual abstractions of thought to the sensory-energetic realm, present experiencing is found to be impermanent, evanescent, seamless and unresolvable. It never actually forms into solid, persisting, independent things, including any kind of persisting “body,” “mind,” “self,” or “world.”
Although it is ever-changing and ungraspable, experiencing never departs from the immovable immediacy of Here-Now (aware presence), the common factor in every different experience. And yet, even the first, impersonal sense of being aware and present vanishes every night in the germinal darkness of deep sleep.
What remains? The eye (I) can never see itself, it can only be itself. What is most subtle and most intimate is beyond experience for it has no objective qualities, and yet there is nowhere and nothing it is not. It is the groundlessness of the ground, the no-thing-ness of everything, the zero that makes all the other numbers possible.
Everything perceivable and conceivable is evaporating the instant it appears. It can truly be said that nothing is happening in the sense that there are no solid, substantial, persisting, independently existing forms. THIS (right here, right now) is ungraspable and undefinable groundlessness, no word or concept can ever capture it, and yet, it is totally obvious, unavoidable and effortlessly present.
Here it is, the Holy Reality, always in plain view, showing up as breakfast dishes, laundry, chairs and tables, sunlight dancing on the leaves, the barking of a dog, sounds of traffic or rain, the taste of tea, the shapes of these words, the humming of the refrigerator, the listening silence, the boundless open awareness being and beholding it all.
Only when we describe all of this in words does it seem as if "awareness" is one thing and "the taste of tea" is something else. The non-conceptual living actuality of this breathing-hearing-seeing-awaring-thinking-being is undivided, without center or periphery. No inside, no outside. No subject, no object. Simply this, just as it is.
And everything is included, even the apparent mistakes, the apparent distractions and delusions, the moments of being apparently “lost in a self-centered dream.”
And really, who or what is it that thought claims is “lost,” “distracted,” “contracted,” or “not quite there yet”? It’s always the imaginary “me,” isn’t it? The mirage-like phantom who seems to be at the center of “my life.” But is there such an entity? And is “my life” actually “some-thing” separate from the seamless, boundless, whole? And what is this imagined “there” that this phantom “me” seems not quite to have reached yet? How is it possible to be anywhere but right here? This is all a story, isn’t it?
Consciousness seems to love stories, and it seems to enjoy playing hide and seek with itself, pretending to be lost and then going out in search of itself. But nothing is ever really separate or lost or stuck or encapsulated. Even the me-stories, the intermittent thought-sense of being separate and encapsulated, the memories of yesterday, the fantasies about tomorrow are all simply shapes that this present experiencing, this presence, this consciousness is momentarily taking. They are as impersonal and as meaningless as the ever-changing weather.
I’m reminded at times of a great story that I first heard from the wonderful Catholic priest Tony DeMello about a mother trying to wake her son up for school. She comes into the son’s room where he’s sleeping, opens the curtains, tells him it’s time to get up for school. He doesn’t want to get up, and he pulls the covers up over his head. The story goes on and on for a while with the mother trying to convince her son to get up. Finally the exasperated mother says, “You need to get up. You’re going to be late for school, and you’re the Head Master. They’re waiting for you.” Suddenly, the son we have been imagining as a young boy morphs in our minds into a full-grown adult.
In the me-story, it feels somehow safer to keep pretending to be someone small instead of being no one and everything. It’s more familiar to be the perpetual seeker, never quite there yet, still trying to get a grip on the ungraspable so that we can control the uncontrollable. And then sometimes we hear a voice: “Wake up, you’re the Head Master (no-thing at all, Zero, the One and Only, Just This)! You ARE Here!”
There is no “there” to reach. And there is no “me” at the center of experiencing. The journey and the character are both imaginary. No-thing is really happening. There’s only HERE-NOW, ever-changing, ever-present, ungraspable. THIS truly IS all there is. And when we’re awake to it, it’s quite marvelous—even the laundry and the breakfast dishes and the ostomy bag and the apparent problems and the whole apparently terrifying World Drama. It’s all no-thing at all.
Love and blessings to you all. Thank you for being here.
New Podcast Coming Soon!
I’ll be sending out a new podcast very soon, probably this Sunday. So keep an eye out for that.
Housekeeping and FAQs about Substack:
Not Getting My Posts? Check your spam and/or promotions folders at least once a week. This link HERE offers tips on how subscribers can safelist mailings you want to receive, but I advise frequently checking those folders as well.
What Is the App and Do I Need It? The Substack app is simply another way of enjoying Substack. If you’re receiving my posts by email, you don’t need the app. You can read the posts in your email or online (by choosing that option at the top of each post). If you prefer the app, it’s free, and you can get it from either the App Store or Google Play. The app also has an audio feature where you can listen to a robot reading the posts in a kind of drone. From my sensibilities as a writer, the audio reading is pretty terrible, but if you have a visual disability or can’t look at screens too long, it’s an available feature. I don’t recommend using it unless you absolutely have to.
What Are Substack Notes? These are short messages similar to tweets. Subscribers won’t get them by email, but they may show up on the app if notifications are turned on. I’ve posted a few, usually just links to articles I liked.
Thanks for reading Right Now, Just As It Is! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.