I frequently get email questions from people who read the blog. I really appreciate the questions; they are a great help in clarifying what is written.
I also hear in many of the emails a great deal of frustration and efforting and pushing to “figure it out.” What I came to see, thanks to so many who graciously gave of their time and insight, is that there is no way to “figure it out.” That came as a great disappointment to me. It was tremendously frustrating and I thought that people were just hiding something from me because they didn’t think I was “ready” or maybe I was just asking questions in the wrong way.
The attempt to “figure it out” is at the heart of what the Zen tradition refers to as the ‘gateless gate’ that keeps us locked out of the garden (our true nature). Of course, the joke on all of us is that we have never left the garden; it is impossible for us to not be our true nature. However, we frequently remain mesmerized by the pictures and sounds that play in the fully-equipped theatre of thought. It was certainly no different in my experience.
Allow me to suggest something that is somewhat difficult to explain, but if you “listen softly” – as William Samuel used to say – I hope might be helpful in bringing the search and suffering to an end.
Notice that space surrounds and interpenetrates everything. In fact, it is accurate to say that everything is composed of space, a great emptiness. As the Heart Sutra says, “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” Both interdependently co-arise. All form exists within space and all space exists within form, and while there appears to be a separation, that, too is an arising of space-form.
Why am I pointing this out? Because all suffering (confusion, struggle, efforting, pushing, grasping, aversion, attachment, etc.) involves awareness “collapsing” around an object. We mistake ourselves and the Open Knowingness that we are for impermanent, object-arisings. It is as if awareness is ‘shrink wrapped’ around a particular arising and space is ‘lost’. Of course, in absolute terms, this is not at all the case; everything takes shape within infinitely clear, open space – even the experience of losing infinitely clear, open space! Nonetheless, our experience is frequently that of collapsing around some emotion-thought and being squeezed into some uncomfortable shape (like being stuffed into your school locker by seniors when you were a freshman!). Our most common reaction is to fight against the capture. This struggle against the experience tires and frustrates us, encouraging further collapse and more suffering.
Try this antidote: simply ‘give space to’ whatever is arising. Do nothing other than allow. A driver cuts you off in traffic and anger arises? Give it space. Frustration arises because you tell yourself the story that you shouldn’t be angry? Give it space. Your hands grip the steering wheel with a vengence and your jaw clenches? Give it space. You forget to give it space? Give that space, too. Just keep allowing, 100,000 times a day. You will never run out of space to give.
Keep giving space to whatever arises – anger, irritation, frustration, worry, sadness, judgment, love, passion, excitement, confusion, criticism, forgetfulness, discouragement, laughter, attraction, focus, memories, uncertainty, numbness, tension, pain, sounds, odors, sights, sensations, thought, emotion. All of it, including uncertainty about how to do it and worry about whether or not you are doing it right. Give space to the search. Give space to the concern that you will never ‘get it’. Give space to other people who are not doing it (whatever it is) ‘right’. Give space to your unreasonableness.
Giving space to these seeming objects/events will come naturally (go ahead now and give space to the thought that you don’t think it will and that you really don’t get it). Giving everything more and more space will come naturally because you ARE space, too, not just form. Allowing space is simply a recognition of the full emptiness of your true nature.
You don’t get it. Neither do I. You are a lost cause. So am I. Let’s give that space, too.