Q: Teachers like you have such an iron, rock solid assuredness about the truth that I don’t seem to share. I’m in a state of questioning, and you are not. I want this rock solid assuredness! Is there something I’m not getting? How come you have rock solid assuredness and I don’t?
A: While I can’t speak for other teachers, I can share my own experience and perspective. We often search for things like “rock solid assuredness” in the wrong place. We hope to find solidity and sureness in the outer world by becoming secure and safe through money and power, or we hope to find it in some final understanding or enlightenment. However, these things don’t provide the sense of solidity, assuredness, or security we seek because both outer and inner experience is always changing.
The source of everything that matters, including a solid sense of connection to Being, is emptiness itself. Emptiness is at the core of everything, including our body and our awareness. Yet empty space doesn’t seem like a very promising place to find anything solid! And it is not that emptiness is solid—emptiness has no qualities, which is why we call it emptiness. But while emptiness has no qualities, it does have an infinite capacity to express or create all the qualities of existence that really matter, like love, peace, joy, strength, clarity, compassion, and many more. These qualities are real and “solid.” They have much more reality than our thoughts and mental images and even more reality than physical objects.
The challenge is that we never know what will arise out of emptiness in any particular moment, or if anything will arise at all. One moment you might experience a powerful sense of pure existence that is solid and more real than a mountain of stone arising out of the empty source of all experiences, and the next moment you might experience a sense of spacious, light joy that doesn’t feel particularly solid but is still very real. And the next moment may just be empty beyond any concept of emptiness you can imagine.
What you are interpreting as rock solid assuredness in a teacher may instead be a deep sense of trust that whatever arises next will be fine. I don’t ever know what is going to arise in the next moment, but I’ve developed a sense of trust that it will be fine whatever it is. Trust is subtly different from the rock solid assuredness you describe. Trust is more like a soft, warm, golden light that allows an open and totally accepting embrace of uncertainty and surprises. Trust is more subtle and yet more real than even experiences of certainty, which come and go. Trust is a fundamental quality that arises out of the emptiness from which everything else also arises.
Trust is gained from experience. We trust physical objects to behave a certain way because we have so much experience with them. The same can happen with the experience of your true nature. However, the trust of true nature is necessarily more subtle because true nature is infinitely varied in its expression. Yet this subtlety means that as your essential trust deepens, more and more can be included. Everything that has ever happened has come from your true nature expressing itself in all the dimensions of existence.
Deeply exploring, sensing, and understanding experiences that arise helps you develop this essential trust. All of your experiences are showing you something about your true nature. I invite you to make friends with your uncertainty and get to know it very well. Uncertainty is the lack of certainty, and the lack of anything is actually the experience of emptiness. Whenever it seems like something is missing, that is an experience of emptiness. It is an endless surprise to discover that the source of what seemed to be missing is found in that same feeling of lack or emptiness when you go more deeply into that sense of lack or emptiness. For example, any certainty, insight, or understanding you experience comes out of the sense of emptiness that your mind might label a lack of certainty. In fact, it is in the moments when we allow ourselves to not know that insight or knowing is most freely able to arise.
Trust is knowing that even when certainty is not here, the source of certainty is. And this is also the source of love, joy, curiosity, and everything else that really matters. The important thing is not an ongoing experience of solidity or assuredness or any other quality of Being but, rather, a trust that those qualities will arise when truly needed. Developing this trust requires endlessly letting go of any agenda for how life should feel or what should arise. That is how you discover that whatever is here can be trusted completely. The emptiness knows better than we do what is needed in this moment.