One year after beginning a personal Presence practice, what is most apparent to me are the paradoxes of striving to realize it:
- It’s usually a solitary pursuit, yet its purpose is to realize that we are all connected, all One.
- It’s often called “mindfulness”, yet its objective is ultimately to empty the mind of thoughts and reactive emotions and realize the mind is an illusion, a distraction.
- For many, it can take 10,000 hours, or a lifetime, to realize what can be “seen” in a second.
- Thousands of self-described “teachers” offer courses, retreats, seminars, videos and lessons in realizing it, yet the most respected of these say they are not gurus, not leaders, not teachers, merely people offering “pointers” that might allow us to realize, all by ourselves, what cannot be taught.
- Many of us believe we must prepare, ready ourselves to be who we already are, or that we are not yet ready to be who we already are.
- It seems to take a long time to realize that time does not exist, that the only thing that exists is the Now. Some are convinced it is not yet time to realize this, that they must spend more time in contemplation and inquiry “first”.
- An enormous amount of self-reflection seems involved in the process of realizing the “self” is an illusion, an unreal construct.
- Much thinking (contemplation, self-inquiry and other intellectual activity) seems to be involved in learning to let go of and not associate with our thoughts, and to get thoughts out of the way of just being.
- Much of the energy spent discovering who we really are seems to involve appreciating who and what we are not.
- For many, it seems the mind must be utterly exhausted in order to see how easy it is to just be.
- What holds most of us back, it seems, is fear of loss of identity, or pride in or attachment to our current identity, yet that identity is just a fiction; still, we are unable to let go of the story of our identity, our “personal history”, even though we know, at least intellectually, it is not us at all.
- Several of the people who speak most convincingly of awakening only reached that state when they were least at peace, in crisis; rather than “relaxing into spacious awareness” they crashed into it when they had no other choice — everything they had been holding on to was suddenly gone.
Mooji discusses these paradoxes with a metaphoric story: We are at the door/gateway to realization, to awakening, but just outside there is a large, noisy market with hundreds of people trying to sell us things, enticing us with delicious smells and wonderful promises, so we hold back, keep looking at these offerings here, on the known side, the comfortable side, the unconscious side. We decide we are not quite ready to go through, to see what is on the other side.
So we stay, promising ourselves that soon, tomorrow, next week, next year, we will be ready, we will go then.
And there are so many of us here! And some of them claim to have awakened, to be enlightened, to be teachers; so why are they still here?
For most humans it’s a gradual transition from constantly being engaged in the stream of thinking, being dragged along by the stream of thinking, one thing after another — including the thought “When am I going to awaken? What’s the point in carrying on if it hasn’t happened yet?”.
The transition from that to, at first, the occasional arising of something else — that heightened alertness or aliveness that replaces thinking (in which thinking can still take place but is no longer compulsive). It’s a space where really thinking is unnecessary. You have risen above thinking. That is the awakening.
— Eckhart Tolle