By James Low
1. The ground of all experience, and therefore of everything, is nothing other than our own presence. Neither the ground nor the basic given facticity of our own presence exist as entities. Although ungraspable by hand or thought or machine they are always available as the inalienable basis of each moment.
- Whenever we have an experience and experience ourselves as the experiencer of the experience, both subject and object aspects of this are revealed by the illuminating qualities of presence, just as the mirror shows the reflection of both my face and the room I am in.
- Commotion in the interplay of subject and object generates intensity of attention and identification, the arousal of which generates new patterns of experience. The subject, a mode of energy manifesting as a quasi-experiencer mediated through language, appears to be, that is, is taken to be, an entity, an enduring self-substance. This identification generates a ‘personal identity’ which is oblivious both to its own contingency and to the actual ground it arises from and moves within. The ground is forgotten by its own children, creating for them a burdensome ‘freedom’ and responsibility—even although these ‘children’, the play of subject and object, are never apart from the ground itself.
- Who is responsible? No one! The happenstance of the transient patterning of ephemeral moments is both the taker to be of something, and the something that is taken to be. Within this story, this play of shadows on the wall, there is the unfolding of what ‘we’ take to be our self and our world. No one made it happen. From the very beginning nothing substantial, nothing having its own self-defining essence, has occurred—except as a concept.
- With the felt experience of self and other as truly existing separate entities, subject and object continue to be related but apparently across a gap. Seeing opens up a field of separate objects that have to be made sense of. Being seen opens up the sense of being an object while also being a subject. One is defined by oneself and by others. In this tangle of opinions and judgements there is no simple truth to be found. This gives rise to the feeling of being isolated, lost and confused—with the consequent wish to establish order, predictability and control.
- Theuncertaintygeneratedbytheactuallackofapersonalessenceisinseparablefromthe activity of identifying with a ‘self’, with something taken to be stabilisable within the indeterminate flow. This is the root anxiety, an ‘existential’ anxiety arising from feeling a need for a ground other than one’s actual ground. The yearning for the imagined and desired but intrinsically unavailable substantial ground, whether taken to be an object, an idea, or a sense of ego self, generates fear, anxiety and compensatory activity while the actual, always present ground is not attended to.
- This manifests as dialogic experience which is itself the energy of non-duality. The ‘polarities’ of the dialogic exchange are themselves insubstantial moments of the expression of the energy of presence.
8. The relational dialogic is prone to entropy, manifesting as loss of trust in the free play of spontaneous patterning. There is a loss of meaning, involvement and direction, creating an unpleasant unravelling of the sense of self. This leads to the development of an attempted antidote in the form of creating a choreography of role-based fixed identity, including the internal dialogic structure of the ‘self’.
- HoweverthepatternsthatprovideapredictablesenseofhowIamandhowthingsareonly work if they are adhered to. The saving antidote brings a foreclosure of possibility through the demand for conformity.
- Although no actual division has occurred, the intoxicating drama of the felt sense of the initial splitting and reification of subject and object generates the double moves of attraction/repulsion, attachment/aversion, fusing/avoidance, and so on.
- The instability of this ‘structure’, the lack of an enduring reliable ground within the field of the forgetfulness of the actual ground, leads to anxiety, worry, unnecessary planning and a stream of blame and recrimination.
- The fantasy of control which generates a sense that life is knowable and understandable, engenders a sense of dismay at the fundamental unpredictability of each situation as it actually unfolds. Unknowability is felt to be persecutory.
- This can manifest as anxiety about one’s own or others’ behaviour. Wondering what other people think of me hooks in many other fears such as not being good enough or being unlovable. This can be further intensified by worrying about the fact that we can never really know what others are thinking.
- If knowledge is taken to be the guarantor of security and safety then one is condemned to struggle to know in advance what will be experienced. This generates endless procedures which, if followed, are believed to ensure safety. But compliance with procedures is to privilege the abstract over the actual, creating a map and a plan that is often impossible to install in the complexity of concrete evolving situations.
- Anxiety arises from the ‘loss’ of one’s own ground. This loss is in fact an impossibility since the ground is the actual basis of our experience. Thus anxiety is the vibration of alienated misapprehension, of a reliance on concepts rather than on a relaxed and open trust in the givenness of presence. In imagining that one needs something one doesn’t have, there is an ignoring of what is always already here. This has not been lost, merely lost sight of through pre-occupation. It can’t be lost or found since ‘it’ is not a thing nor is it separate from the one who might seek it.
- The key point is to work with circumstances as they manifest. This means not relying on assumptions, which in turn requires us to recognise the actual nature of each of our assumptions.
- To do this one has to examine the one who relies on assumptions. This ‘one’ is itself a complex patterning of assumptions. Becoming aware of the nature of cognition and affect as flow phenomena allows the lived experience of the priority of being. This releases us from reliance on thoughts, techniques and so on as methods that can stabilise our identity and our situation, for their seeming stability and reliability is itself an assumption which ‘exists’ only in reiteration. The repetition of the general shape of a moment creates the sense of an enduring form—although in fact there is nothing but movement.
- With this enquiry, stability is recognised as the quality of the actual ground rather than of that which the ground manifests. The play of the ground cannot be stabilised since it is movement. Awakening to and as the ground is itself liberation.
- A question that often arises in relation to this is, if the ground is open, when and why would limitation occur? Some texts talk of ‘ignorance’ as the cause as if it were an active agent. Ignorance merely describes the fascination of the subject for the object which occurs when attention is governed by the dualistic frame. Why does this occur? There is no answer to that from within duality. And from the perspective of non-duality it has never occurred in truth so there is nothing to explain. Like a reflection in a mirror, appearances manifest without essence.
- There is the further question of why does the subject merge into thoughts, feelings and so on and become both caught up in them and distracted by them and so inattentive to all else that is occurring. Since the subject has no defining essence and neither has the object, they have no resistance to merging. We may choose to merge with this and try to avoid merging with that—but the subject, in its emptiness, can merge with anything. This brings both the richness of our varied lives and the torment of being caught up in things we can’t release ourselves from.
- There is no way to protect subject from object and vice versa—our existence is dialogic, interactive and fundamentally non-dual. Thus the subject cannot be protected from situational anxiety, depression and so on. Rather than expending time and energy on this impossible task we will be better served by attending to the ground of manifestation itself, infinite being from which arises the co-emergence of subject and object.
- When the mood of anxiety seems pervasive and peppered with specific anxious thoughts, then gently and carefully attend to the one who is having this experience. Being present with the one who appears to be the experiencer, the experiencer changes, vanishes, and seems to re-appear in a newly constituted form, which in turn changes and vanishes. Not only is this ‘subjective’ experience of being the experiencer changing, but the field of experience is also changing. The only unchanging quality is presence itself.
- Presence is the true or fundamental live awareness, the actuality of the experiencer, while individual consciousness, our felt personal sense of being the experiencer, the subject, is in fact the play of the energy of presence.
- Again and again, attend to the immediate presence that reveals all experience. This presence is always free of anxiety—even when the experience it reveals is one of anxiety. Anxiety is movement, presence is stable. Without effort anxiety is self-liberating when left just as it is. The same applies to phobias, depression, compulsions, impulses and all the many kinds of intense experiences that can seem to catch and control us.
- However, if, when the ‘subject’ is troubled by the experience of anxiety (which appears to be the ‘object’), effort is made to shift it, this is not helpful. Neither merged in what is arising, nor standing apart from it, presence offers hospitality to everything without or benefit. Tasting this brings freedom from hopes and fears, and from the need to make unnecessary effort.
- As long as we identify with the subjective sense of self as being our true nature, believing in the seeming facticity of our totalisable existence, then the self-referential interpretations that spiral around it will hide the openness of being. This openness is not in opposition to our ordinary sense of self but is the illuminating presence which reveals the self as movement, as energy.
- Relaxation, trust and availability allow freedom to show itself. These are not activities but are qualities of the given. Whereas although effort, control, demand and intention may briefly ‘secure the territory’, this comes at the cost of reinforcing the sense that ‘it’s all up to me’.
- The burden of being the lonely hero is a prime stimulus to the arising of feelings of anxiety. The sense of being responsible for events one cannot control is punishing and fosters guilt and shame. Even when events seem to go ‘according to plan’ and we might feel proud and competent, this further traps us in our isolating sense of agency.
- The door to freedom is always open whatever occurs. Indeed there is no door to freedom for whatever occurs is always already within the space of freedom, the space of presence. That space is one’s own ground, the heart of one’s being. It cannot be lost or found; it is who we are, even when we are busy constructing fantasy identities.
- But how can I relax when I’m anxious? The exit proposed, simply to relax, seems cruelly impossible. Well, don’t try to relax, simply be present with the one who is anxious and unable to relax, neither merged nor apart. Nothing new is being created so no constructive effort is required. However, if one is taken by the seeming seriousness of the situation then one will be impacted and then react, leading to a further spiral of concern and anxiety.
- Whatever is occurring is always freshly occurring, that is, it is not the sequential showing of a fixed substantial state but a dynamic unfolding of the mutual influencing of every aspect occurring at every moment. The seeming fixity of the patterning is the auto-entrapment of the anxious ego itself. This manifests as a game with rules. The first rule is that we believe, ‘this is happening to me and I cannot change it’. The second rule is that we believe, ‘this should not be happening to me’.
- Without changing the manifest form we simply need to see the constructed nature of the game and through that, to relax our belief in its rules. This opens the space of deconstructive play whereby the rules of the game lose their grip leaving the field open for play which frees itself moment by moment. Improvising with the resources of the whole field, spontaneous play deconstructs the limitation of constructs without altering how they manifest.
33.Seeing the construct as a construct deconstructs the ‘construct-as-given’, liberating it without any effort being made. This requires seeing rather than acting. Not doing is itself auto-healing, the self-liberation of obstacles, limitations and confusions by not investing them with the reification of a seemingly continuous essence.
- This is not the ordinary sense of not doing where we desist from gross activity yet continue our subtle engagement with thoughts, feelings and all the other contents of experience. Radical not doing is not different from radical not knowing—they both rest in an openness free of volition, impulse, habit, assumption.
- This openness is free of demand and necessity, for nothing is at stake since openness itself is ungraspable, beyond reification, harm or destruction. The path to it is very short for this openness is always already available. The method for traversing this non-path is non-meditation, the relaxation of all effort and involvement.
- Relaxing one’s identification and grip means letting go of the fantasy of the subject/object split and its consequent entanglements which generate all the entitative phenomena constituting the experiences of duality. Letting go means being space, not resting on any particular arising but being directly present as the inseparability of awareness and openness. This is not a volitional move for it is the effortless generosity of participation in co-emergence. This is liberation itself, the freedom from limitation that is inseparable from the simultaneous freedom to manifest whatever is required.