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Nothing Happens to You

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Everything happens within you. Nothing ever happens to you. You are the nondual consciousness that is experiencing the words on this page, and yet that consciousness is so empty and spacious that nothing ever happens to it. Just as a thunderstorm passes through the sky but does not happen to the sky, every thought, feeling, desire, sensation and event happens in awareness, but does not happen to it.

This is more obvious when it comes to an external event that doesn't take place near you. A bird flying high above you or the distant sound of traffic obviously happens within the field of awareness, but it doesn't feel like these events happen to you. Yet if that bird flew right in front of your face, or that traffic was slowing you down on the highway, there is a tendency to think something is happening to you. And anything that arises within your own body and mind feels even more like something that happens to you. If a strong experience of fear or desire or confusion arises, we tend to think it has happened to us instead of within us.

The sky is unharmed by the thunderstorm, and that is why we would say the storm happened in the sky instead of to the sky. What about your experiences, thoughts, feelings, and desires? Do they harm your awareness? Or do they eventually pass like a summer raincloud? Is your awareness damaged by them, or is awareness still empty and awake, awaiting the next experience after a sensation, feeling, or thought passes?

Your body is within awareness. Because of its physical nature, something can happen to it that leaves a relatively lasting effect, but what about the awareness that is experiencing the body? Every sensation comes and goes in awareness. The sensations in your body are always changing and shifting, and then your attention also moves to other elements of your experience. Even a chronic painful condition is not in your awareness every moment. So even physical events or injuries do not happen to you, they happen within you. What would it mean if a sore muscle or a stomach ache was not happening to you, but just within your field of awareness? What if everything that happens within your body is just another event within the open sky of consciousness?

The most surprising thing is that this is even true of your deepest and innermost feelings and desires. There are feelings of unworthiness and intense longings that can arise deep within your chest or abdomen. It can almost seem like they are a part of you. And yet even they are happening within the field of awareness, and not really to you. What would it mean if a deep feeling of sadness or an overwhelming desire for true love was not happening to you, but just within your field of awareness? What if everything that moves within your heart and mind is just another event within the open sky of consciousness?

All experience passes like a raincloud and leaves behind the fresh, open space of endless awareness. The source of awareness is always here. You are always here. Everything else happens within awareness. Everything else comes and goes. There is not even a separate you within awareness because you are the source of awareness. And so, nothing happens to you; everything happens within you.

arunachala

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Finding What Doesn't Come and Go

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(The following is an excerpt from the book, Nothing Personal, Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self by Nirmala. Part 1 of the book is available as a free ebook download here, or you can purchase the entire book in our bookstore.)

nothing-personal

We all want the same thing: we all want to be happy. We look everywhere for happiness-in experiences, in possessions, in other people, in pleasures, in success, but we come up empty-handed because they are not the source of happiness. We have to go to the source. But how? How do we find the source? All of these things we are chasing after come and go, so we must look to that which doesn't come and go-that is the source. It turns out that the source of everything is also who you are. You are the source of everything, but don't take my word for it. Let's discover this together. Since the source of everything doesn't come and go, it must be here right now, in this very moment. So, let's look into this moment and see what is present in it and what, among the many things that are present, does not come and go.

Let's start simply by noticing the sensations that are present. Just for a moment, be present to the ongoing flow of sensation. One of the things you'll notice is that sensations are always changing. Your sensory experience is never the same from one moment to the next. Nevertheless, there is a continuity to them; they flow from one to the other. So, while sensations do not qualify as something that doesn't come and go, they are woven together in a way that gives an impression of continuity.

In contrast, notice the lack of continuity in the experience of thought. Thoughts are very fluid. When you are present to your thoughts, you discover how unsubstantial, incomplete, and disjointed they are relative to the experience of sensations. Memories, which are just thoughts about the past, are a good example of this. You never have a truly complete memory of an experience because it would take as long as the experience itself. Most of our memories are like still photos or a series of photos highlighting something that was important or stood out about an experience. They are whittled-down, highly-edited versions of what happened. Like an amateur movie, they are jumbled and patched together, often without even a thread to the story line.

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Seeing Love in an Act of Murder

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Q: The quote in your exquisite book, Living from the Heart, “But when we see the loving nature of even murder....” needs expansion for me.

A: When I point to love as the true nature of even a murderous act, I’m not denying the horrible tragedy that murder is. I’m only pointing out that it is love that motivates and animates the murderer, even when that love is so narrow and distorted that the end result is tragic. One quality of love is that it is caring and takes care of that which is loved. Even murderers are trying to take care of themselves or something else that they love, even though the way they go about doing that is limited, misguided, and so ineffective that the end result is terrible.

If we look deeper, we can see that all dualities in this world are really just different amounts of one thing: Light and dark are different amounts of one thing, which is light. Hot and cold are different amounts of the energy called heat. And so it is with love. Love is the energy or force that moves all of life, and yet we can experience such a tiny amount of love that that experience is a dark and cold one, so dark that it can motivate tragically harmful acts even while someone is attempting to take care of themselves.

Seeing love at the heart of every action enables us to respond with compassion and forgiveness even when we may still need to take appropriate action to stop a violent act or prevent it from happening again. So for the victim, family, friends, and even the perpetrator, the ability or willingness to see love at the core of every action makes it possible to not respond to the murderous or violent act with more violence and judgment but with loving compassion and understanding, which may begin the long, difficult process of healing the murderer’s pain and suffering and lead to rehabilitation.

Our best protection from violence is to heal the wounds in others and in ourselves that lead to violence, not to treat perpetrators with hatred, judgment, and violence (although we may still need to take appropriate action to protect society by preventing the murderer from doing further harm). It is love and compassion that will lead to a reduction in the violence and horror in this world. So anything that allows us to respond in these painful and difficult moments with more love, clarity, understanding, and kindness is a gift to both ourselves and the world.

Someone wrote to me with the following questions:

The quote in your exquisite book, Living from the Heart, "But when we see the loving nature of even murder...." needs expansion for me. Since we are only always seeing ourselves, is the naming of murder as 'evil' versus a 'call for love' a reflection of how we see ourselves? What is the true nature of love in murder? And what is the opportunity for all those involved in that event (the victim, victimizer, friends,) to rise to?

Here is how I responded:

Thank you for your good questions. First I want to stress that when I point to love as the true nature of even a murderous act, I am not denying the horrible tragedy it is. I am just pointing out that it is love that motivates and animates the murderer, even when that love is so narrow and distorted that the end result is tragic.

If we look deeper, we can see that all of the so called dualities in this world are really just different amounts of one thing. Light and dark are really just different amounts of the one thing that exists which is light. Hot and cold are different amounts of the energy called heat. And so it is with love. Love is the energy or force that moves all of life, and yet we can experience such a tiny amount that it is a dark and cold experience of love.

One quality of love is that it is caring and takes care of that which is loved. Even murderers are trying to take care of themselves or something else that they love, even though the way that they go about taking care is so limited, misguided and also ultimately ineffective that the end result is terrible.

But by seeing the love at the heart of every action, it makes it possible to respond to that action with compassion and forgiveness, even if we also need to take appropriate action to stop a violent act or prevent its recurrence. So for the victim, their family and friends and also even for the victimizer, this seeing of the love at the core of every action means that it becomes possible to not respond with more violence and judgement to the murderous or violent act. And specifically, we may respond to the murderer with a loving compassion and understanding, that may begin the long difficult process of healing their pain and suffering that may lead to a true rehabilitation (although again we may also need to take appropriate steps to protect ourselves and others and to prevent further violence). But we definitely do not always need to protect ourselves with further hatred, judgement and violence. Ultimately, the truest protection is to heal the wounds in others and in ourselves that lead to violence. It is love and compassion that will lead to a reduction in the violence and horror in this world, and so anything that allows us to respond in these painful and difficult moments with more love, clarity, understanding and kindness is a gift both to ourselves and to the world.

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Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self by Nirmala.

Nothing Personal leads you to the experience of your true nature and helps you explore its depth. Through exposition, questions and dialogues, it brings you to a place of realization of the Truth: you are the spacious Awareness in which everything appears.

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