Awakening is More than Seeing No self

[ The following guest post comes to you courtesy of Andrew White of the liberationdiaries here at . Many thanks to him for it. – d ]

 Awakening vs. no-self

When you get right down to it all spiritual paths are about awakening; awakening to this, seeing the truth that is the present moment with clarity.

I know de-mystifying it in that way may not appeal to all, but fundamentally there is no mystery to solve, no hidden truth to uncover and in fact you could say that even labels such as ‘spiritual’ are not necessary.

Awakening is not a process that needs any baggage, in fact it’s about shedding all of the mental clutter and baggage that stop us seeing things clearly. Now, arguably the biggest and most troublesome piece of mental baggage we carry around is the belief in a separate self.

We can’t help it, for most people it feels like there’s a ‘me’. We don’t really remember when the feeling started, but the idea that we might reach a place of clarity were that sense of self isn’t present is quite a stretch of the imagination.

No wonder we feel compelled to travel half way round the world to sit at the feet of a guru or teacher, let alone read 50 books a year on the subject. It feels like it’s a big challenge and if it was easy then everyone would do it, right?

But there’s a problem right at the heart of this. The problem is this: we can never find ‘no self’. That’s not possible. Realizing there’s no self doesn’t come about by seeing what’s not there, it comes about by seeing how it really is. You can’t find what’s not there. But you can realize a mistaken belief by finding truth; by realizing reality.


That’s why most teachers and guides emphasize the path of realizing truth, not seeing through the sense of self.

As we awaken, tuning in more and more to the present,
to the way it is,
seeing through the conditioning of culture and upbringing and identification, the sense of self, the belief in a separate ‘me’ falls over. It can’t be sustained and it evaporates.

That’s the path, seeing how it is.

It might be through mindfulness
or meditation
or loving kindness
or generosity
or humility
or most likely a combination of a number of factors like these
but they all flow the same way,
realizing the truth of this simple moment,
just as it is.

No one knows when the sense of self will fall away, and sometimes it happens quickly with a shift or a pop and sometimes it’s a slow and gradual fading.

For some they see it all of a sudden but it doesn’t quite stick so they still have some sort of sense of self but now they know it’s not real.

For others the sense of self is seen through but the feeling sticks around,
it still feels like there’s a ‘me’ but it’s no longer believed in.

For still others, the shift stays shifted and the sense of self never returns, it stays gone.

But because this losing of the sense of self of self, in whatever way, happens at range of different points on the spectrum of awakening, we can’t ever say one person is ‘further on’ than another.

So someone might have a full awakening fairly early because the sense of self became too traumatic or unbearable, but they still have a lot of conditioning and baggage to process to see clearly.

For others, even when most of that has dropped away, there can still be the clinging feeling of a self in the background; once beautifully described as the aroma of a self, in the same way that clean washing, even though it’s spotless still has the aroma of washing about it.

So what is awakening then? If it’s not just about seeing there’s no self, what is it? Awakening is when we’re not simply locked into a thought created world but we are fully aware and present.

Any time you say, ‘I can see myself reacting in this way but I still do it’; even then, you’re in a more awakened state than if you simply reacted.

And it’s a spectrum,
we move from seeing how our conditioning creates responses and reaction
to becoming more aware of the spacious presence of the ‘seeing’ in which the response tries to arise
to being grounded in the seeing as nothing
as simply the presence that isn’t identified with whatever comes up
and at that point
with no energy or belief behind them
things come up rarely and faintly.

I’m not sure we ever fully awaken,
I’m not sure there’s a point we reach where no response arises at all and we’re simply pure presence all of the time.

It seems to me that awakening looks more like the graph they use to describe the way radioactive particles decay.
The point at which they lose all their energy is too far off to calculate so instead we measure their half-life,
the point at which they lose half of their energy.

In the same way when we reach the point where whatever arises no longer has the potential to fool us,
to drag us into the story of how it appears to be, then that’s a very awakened state.

For everyone on this journey,
and really that means all of us,
we’re somewhere on that spectrum.
So it’s true, there isn’t a self undertaking this journey,
there never was,
but the point at which the sense of self falls over
isn’t the actual point of awakening.
It’s much bigger than that.

Being grounded in the formless,
in the flow of the moment,
open and naked as undefined presence of what is;
that’s something worth experiencing.
Accessible to all,
no special gifts or talents required,
just be now,
bring it all back to now.

As Marcus Aurelius said,
“Confine yourself to the present.”

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Guest post entirely from here.

Marcus Aurelius statuary from here.

Editing for spacing, punctuation and American/ English spelling divergences only.

Posted in Uncategorized

Earth Day 2016 – A Contemplation

Earth From Space Wallpaper-704282

[ In honor of the Earth for Earth Day; Monday  April 22, 2016.
This post is written to be read out loud.]

Every moment,

the Earth supports all life upon it.

The Earth provides everything we need.

I cannot make even the smallest part
of what this fragile life utterly needs .

From before birth until our death and decomposition,
the Earth sustains and nourishes us.


This body is composed of the solid elements of the Earth, water, air and energy.

I shall see how from birth through death, moment by moment
Life is completely dependent on and
perpetually supported by the Earth.

The solid elements of the Earth

Without the Earth, there is no life.

This body is constructed of the elements of the Earth’s crust.
Without these elements, no body can exist.

No humans, no animals, no plants, no rocks.

Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Hydrogen, Calcium and Phosphorous
99% of the body is made of these
( the last 1% is trace elements )

I can do nothing to create a single atom of this body
All the building blocks were here long before I was born
Before my grandparents were born
Before the first humans walked upon the ancient Earth.


This body is 60 to 70 % water.
Without water, in a few days I will die.

Drinking, bathing, washing, flushing, swimming, and growing crops.
Water lies at the center of human life

Life begins in water
For nine months we live in the water of the amnion,
protected by water,
nourished through water.
Water courses through the body with every heartbeat,
and falls away with each tear.

I can do nothing to create a single drop of water,
no matter how great my thirst.
Water does not belong to me or anyone
The water was here before I was born
Before my grandparents were born
Before the first humans swam in the ancient seas.


We breath about 12 times a minute, more that 6 million times every year.
Without air, we lose consciousness in moments, and quickly perish.

The Earth’s atmosphere filters the sun,
carries the clouds,
and connects us with everything that breaths
and transpires.

The breath I breath in now
just breathed out by someone else,
by the trees and green plants outside,
by every other human,
green plant
and animal
that ever lived.

I can do nothing to create a single lungful of air
Air does not belong to me or to anyone.
The air was all here long before I was born
Before my grandparents were born,
Before the first humans breathed the fresh air of the ancient Earth.


Without energy there is no life.

The Earth flying through space
Orbits the Sun in a very narrow path,
Earth’s temperate climate
Depends critically on it’s distance to the Sun.

The energy of the Sun,
Comes to us as heat,
as light,
through food,
through fuel.

Our body receives the energy,
So we live, move, and function.
Energy changes endlessly
from one form to another,
Continuing as long as we live.

I can do nothing to make a single joule of energy,
no matter how great my wish.
Energy does not belong to me or anyone,
passing through life, changing form.
The sun has allowed life, supported life, renewed life
Before the first humans gazed upon an ancient African savannah’s dawn.

The elements of the body,
Water of the body,
Air in the breath,
Energy itself
All are on loan from the Earth.

How many generations have been born,
lived taking what they needed,
then died,
Giving everything back that was on loan from the Earth
Since the first humans appeared ?

I see that everything that permits life,
Everything that supports life,
Everything that promotes life,
This life,
The life of my parents
my grandparents,
my friends,
my children,
The life of every living thing
the entire biotic world
from the highest reaches of the atmosphere
to the deepest ocean depths
lives on the Earth,
depends on the Earth.

For just this moment,
I shall remember my home world
with deep gratitude,
I shall recall with humble awe
The beauty these eyes see,
The delight this body knows,
Every experience that ever transpired,
Came through
the unqualified
of the Earth
And the cornucopia of life
sustained by the Earth.

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Earth photo courtesy of here.

Four elements from here.

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Pain Haze

At a day-long class almost an hour’s drive from home, the level of physical pain rose inexorably all morning. When attention for objects other than the pain faded into the background, the class ( and most everything else ) fell crashing down the pyramid of the Needs Hierarchy to rest in a steaming, jumbled heap on the ground.

Fortunately, the physical body maintained verticality long enough to excuse itself and reach the car. Once in the driver’s seat, the mere act of guiding the vehicle safely home demanded virtually all available physical energy.

This is what I found from that experience:

Pain may reduce physical options; mental options not so much.
The roads that led to my house sprouted a convenience store or gas station every mile, any of which would sell the standard over-the-counter pain pills. To stop, get out of the car, interact, get back into the car, etc., presented an unimaginable effort. Per William James, a ” dead option”.

Still, attention made itself available to explore the pain.

Where is it , exactly ?
Where are its boundaries ?
What are its qualities ?
Increasing or decreasing ?
Moving or still ?
Aching or sharp ?
Where is it not ?
What still feels good ?

How is the breath ?
Is it smooth and free ?
Can more relaxation be found in the breath ?
How ?

Exploring the pain with an attitude of relaxed curiosity showed that the pain was not what it seemed.
The boundary of this pain spilled and blurred all over the body core.
It had no definite center, nor even a central area that did not shift moment to moment.
Intensity waxed and waned in different regions at different times.
The more relaxing around the pain, the less intense it felt.

Wishing love for others reduces pain.
At some point, tried the lovingkindness practice of wishing happiness to anyone who came to mind. The teacher of the class. People I knew. My dog.  Any being whatsoever.
Pain level decreased.
Was the decrease from mere distraction ? Or does other-centeredness reduce the intensity of physical pain beyond mere distraction therapy ?

Pain is like a force of nature.
As a thunderstorm roils and crashes, pain creates effects within attention affecting experience.
Just as a thunderstorm changes from instant to instant, so did this interior weather change inner experience.
No intentionality.
Just happening.

Unowned pain hurts less, because fear is missing.
This pain was not happening to anyone. This was seen. So the relationship with pain was void of the fear of continuance.
No chilling thoughts of a future “me” arose, plagued by the unrelenting presence of this harsh energy.
“Just this”, as in, this instant.
“Just this” made exceptional company that day !

Enough pain changes the values of the moment.

Other than what is described here, little else occupied this attention for the ride home, save safe driving habits.
No thoughts of non-duality, no thoughts of politics, no desires other than described.
Almost everything in the mental world vanished in the presence of pain.
This experience only lasted a few hours on one day.
Some people have to bear repeating patterns of pain for extended periods, even for years.

When pain leaves, it’s as if it was never there. Almost.
After the pain was quelled, what remained ?

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More on pain meditation here, here, and here. Also here.

Maslow’s Heirarchy Pyramid from here.

Thunderstorm from here.

Posted in Human Experience | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Old Photo

Old photo

seeing my parents

before we were born


young and happy

full of energy

before they knew



from themselves

from their kids

from each other


It’s hard to believe

they  ever looked

quite so young

so hopeful

or that good looking




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Original photo from :

Posted in Off the Wall, Poetry & Free Verse | Tagged , , , , , ,

About Satori …


Oshaku Okumura, one of the foremost exponents of Dogen’s teachings, said when he was asked about Satori: “Satori is nothing but being aware of, or being alert in, whatever activity you are doing right now, right here. Any activity is not a step, means, or preparation for other things, but rather should be done for its own sake, being accomplished in each moment.”

Viewed through the lens
of self and time,
this statement
did not seem
to make sense.

Isn’t satori
an awakening experience ?

Isn’t awakening
stepping outside
of time ?

So how could satori
be present
” all of the time ” ?

It took satori
to understand
not understanding.

What seems to be present
before satori
is utterly complete

What seems to be present
after satori
is utterly complete

The difference
lies in

To practice
as if
what is real
and always present
really is real
and always present
of the moment
would have helped.

Who knows ?

_ _ __ ___ _____ ________ _____________ ______________________________

Oshaku Okumura Roshi

Drawing of Dogen from here:

The image of Oshaku Okumura Roshi from here:

The quotation came from here:

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Primitive Hut Retreat


primitive hut retreat
on a breezy hillside
of scrub forest
in winter

little hooves scuff by
at 1:00 am

one morning
two owls duel hooting
in the predawn dark

immersed in natural quiet
alive, vital, spacious, free

animal, vegetable and mineral
acoustic contributions
from every direction

not like the dead quiet
at Bell Labs sound-damp chamber

where no owls hoot
no chipmunks dart
no drawn out lowing
from cattle across the valley

why step back from the world
on a pilgrimage to nowhere
looking for nothing
waiting for nothing
sitting with no goal
not even an aspiration ?

didn’t this used to be spiritual ?
driven ?
important !?!

an agenda
trying to budge, shove, succeed
as if practice
was about winning a prize

a farce of inner force
twisting God’s arm
to make awakening fall
from her grasp

like the mythical apple
that never struck
Sir Isaac Newton

gravity never noticed
his marvelous observations
the planets continued on their course
naturally, marvelously indifferent
to the brilliance of his thoughts

all along
God and this one
breathed the same breath
entertained the same notions
emoted the same heart’s energy

now standing under the open sky

twilight fades into night

stars peek out in twos and threes

the half-moon rising slowly

scree tumbles down the hillside

cold breeze caressing

hot tea steaming

starlight shining

bright and vivid

nothing missing

nothing missing

_ _ __ ___ _____ ________ _____________ _____________________

The hut photo was taken by the author.

Starry night from here:

Reference to the anechoic chamber :

The retreat took place here:
( see

Posted in Poetry & Free Verse | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

What is Water ?

A humble , honest look at the actual day-to-day,

moment to moment experience

of one person.

Sound familiar ?

A big part of the spiritual journey, told in less than 10 minutes.

This video comes from here:


Posted in Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The One Process

The One Process Worksop



This extraordinary One Process Workshop helped deepen current experience here, clarifying some questions about post-awakening life through powerful direct inquiry and focused contemplation.

Ken Kelly and Brigitte Hansoul lead the practices through a highly participatory and example-based style whose gentleness belies its power and efficacy.

An amazing experience with continuing unfolding practical benefits.

Ken Kelly

Brigitte Hansoul

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Forgive Everyone, Everything, Forever

[ Cross-posted from Vanishing Narrative. Enjoy ! ]

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Top 12 Ways Losing Weight Resembles Spiritual Practice

12) Learn new vocabulary, such as ” Dharmakaya ” and ” pummelo ” .

11) Counter intuitive.

10) Full of surprises !

9) Hard to believe what you just nearly did.

8) Just one more thing your spouse shakes her head about.

7) Sometimes you’re totally high, sometimes it’s a slog.

6) Takes ” discipline“. ( really just awareness )

5) Both may call for fasting.

4) Transformative.

3) Motivation colors the outcome. ( A lot ! )

2) Delayed gratification is the name of the game.

1) You’re glad you did it.

Dave Letterman

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While the format above was [ vaguely ] inspired by Dave Letterman’s ” Top Ten Lists “, the content is entirely original.

Photo comes from here:

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