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Tasting Emptiness

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Q: In your book, Nothing Personal, you wrote this about Awareness:  "This mysterious something is like a flashlight. I call it that because there is a quality of brightness to it. Whatever you bring your attention to becomes lit up by this Awareness".  What happens if I shine the flashlight on Awareness itself?

A: That is a very good question! The nature of awareness itself cannot really be captured in words, but the actual practice of turning awareness back on itself is a powerful doorway into directly experiencing the mystery of awareness more fully, even if you still cannot describe or even conceptualize it.

Since awareness is not a thing and does not have a fixed location, often the initial experience when we direct attention to awareness itself is a sense of emptiness and/or disorientation. It is like trying to grasp a beam of light with your hands. The opportunity is to just stay with the experience of "no-thing-ness" or the sense of indefinable and ungraspable vagueness and see what happens. I often use the metaphor that it can be like walking from a brightly lit room into a completely dark room. At first, you cannot see anything! But if you stay there with your eyes wide open, then gradually your eyes adjust and you can start to just make out the furniture.

Similarly, when we stay with the actual experience of noticing awareness, no matter how vague or undefined it is at first, there can be a filling in of a more subtle sensing of simple presence or Being. Even then it can remain elusive, but the invitation is to continue to just stay with the ebb and flow of sensations, and also of more subtle sensations. You can be especially curious if you encounter any sense of emptiness or blankness or even a sense of lack or like something is missing. Our instincts when we experience emptiness or nothingness is to turn away and look somewhere else. But on these subtle levels, the direct sensations of emptiness and lack are surprisingly the most direct openings into deeper reality. It takes a while to get the knack of looking at nothing and fully tasting emptiness, but with time you can become a connoisseur of emptiness and discover all of the myriad subtle qualities of your own essence as awareness. Here is an article about this kind of exploration: http://endless-satsang.com/emptiness.htm

I hope this helps.

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Don't Brush Your Teeth with a Hammer

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Q: Could you please help me get clear on the question of waking up and having an opinion or judgment? It seems to me that all opinions would also be no-self, they appear and at the same time can be a judgment. Just because someone awakes to their no-self nature doesn't mean that they immediately become a nice guy lacking opinions...would you agree?

A: Good question! The human aspect of our nature continues after any big spiritual realization and so yes, the apparent person still has opinions and judgments galore :)

The difference in my experience is that there is a much greater degree of flexibility to hold the opinions lightly. They are seen to be relative and not that important, so when they are not needed or are even getting in the way, they can be dropped more easily. This is also relative and some deeper layers of conditioning might be stickier and so would tend to arise more often and interfere more often.

All there is...is truth. So every opinion and judgment has some truth in it (although some have very, very little), so they all can also be useful in certain circumstances. That is part of why they do not go away...because they are still useful sometimes.

Narrow opinions and judgments are not bad or wrong, they are just of very limited usefulness. Like a tool that does only one job well. The problem is when we use that same "tool" to try and do lots of things. Imagine if you used a hammer to open a jar of pickles or to brush your teeth! It would not work out so well. An extremely narrow or limited viewpoint can even be more dangerous than a hammer if it is applied indiscriminately.

The flexibility of awareness that tends to come with spiritual awakening means you can move in and out of different perspectives and viewpoints and over time, this tends to make someone more adept at moving into the perspective or viewpoint that is most appropriate and functional in the moment. But no one is perfect and even the most enlightened person can still pick up the wrong "tool" now and then :)

I hope this helps.

Note: Nirmala invites questions for this blog. You can contact him using the form here.

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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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