We would do well to start all spiritual investigations and most psychological ones, whether of ourselves or of others, with the question, where do we rest? When there is nothing that we are doing, nothing we have to do, where do we rest? In other words, what is our customary experience of ourselves? This is not only the most central question of all; it is the most profound, and the answer is the most revealing!
Resting in unrest
First, ask yourself the question, do you rest at all? Many of us are usually in a condition of unrest, of having something urgent to do, some wrong to right. And usually, though we may not admit it, we fear there is something terribly wrong with ourselves.
Look at what you are feeling when you’re not doing anything. Are you at rest, or are you feeling driven – to do something, to change something – ultimately to change who you are, to be someone else?
Also, consider what things you do when you are feeling this way? What things do you do when you want be resting? Do lists of shoulds arise unbidden in your mind? Do you worry, obsess, make plans or at least lists, clean the house or argue?
And, for that matter, what things do you do to rest? Do you drink, smoke marijuana, take tranquilizers, overeat, veg out in front of the TV, jog, or have sex?
Resting in a belief system
Most of us, when we rest, rest in a belief system. Within this belief system we become all right and let ourselves rest only when we have fulfilled its conditions, when we have gotten the grades, lost the weight, gotten the job, made the money, married the person, gone to church, got the house, mowed the lawn, accepted the social beliefs and in turn have become accepted by the society.
When we achieve all-rightness, or have at least accepted what it is to be all right, we make a position out of it, and we rest in that position. Once we have taken our position, we perceive from it and filter reality from it. Which, of course, means that we judge ourselves, evaluate others and even raise our children from it. As long as we’re in a belief system, there’s actually no way to proceed. We have to clear the belief system.
A question of identity
This question of where we rest is ultimately a question of identity. And identity, for most of us, emerges out of our beliefs about ourselves. Who would we be if we were free of any urgency, any compulsion to change something, particularly to change something about ourselves? Who would we be if we were free of any belief system and most of all, free of any belief that there is something wrong with us?
Ideally, when there is nothing to do, we would be resting in emptiness, in alert beingness, fully present in the present, de-void of any pain, uneasiness, anything that has to be remedied, any defense of our identity, any fear, anxiety or self-doubt, any voices in our head. We would be aware, but aware of nothing, of no-thing. For this awareness of no-thing is presence, is inner freedom, is inner peace, and is the gateway to the Self. This awareness of no-thing is the nondual state that spiritual teachers and nondual psychologists are talking about. It is the eternal now; it is presence. It is Christ consciousness and Buddha mind. It is the God within.
It is also our real Self, our ultimate identity.
When we rest in it, we are resting in a place other than our belief identity, our ordinary, personal identity, self-concept or ego.
The goal of any true transformational practice, whether spiritual or psychological, is to be able to rest – and when resting to rest in this nondual space. At the same time, because only resting in nonduality lets us see what positions we are holding, our transformational practices have to encompass the goal. For only when we let go to nonduality, to emptiness, can we notice what we have been (habitually) holding, what we have been resting in, and what we were doing to endure or avoid it. Paradoxically, it is only in emptiness that we have a place to stand in and to notice from. And only when we notice what we have been holding, can we let go of it.
So accessing nonduality and resting in it is the true goal of all spiritual practices, all forms of meditation, Advaidic inquiry, Yoga, chanting, spiritual music, Sufi whirling and the like. When they bring us nonduality, then and only then do we become aware of our usual states of being, feel the way they have been imprisoning our spirit and appreciate the desirability of letting them go!
The evolutionary dialectic of psychospiritual transformation, then, is to access emptiness, notice our usual states of consciousness by their absence, resolve to let go of them when they arise again, and by letting go return to emptiness. As this process is repeated time and time again, our consciousness spirals upwards, our belief identity unwinds and our real identity becomes realer. In addition, less of our time is spent in the former and more in the latter, until ultimately whenever we rest, we do so in nonduality.
When the final goal is reached, meditative practices and therapeutic techniques cease to serve any transformational purpose and can be reserved for maintenance. The practices are the means, never the end. Once the far shore is reached, the raft can be chopped up for firewood.
The selfless self
Resting in our true identity, in nonduality, in the selfless Self, is the starting point, the point of the origination for all true human endeavors, individual, collective, and even evolutionary. For if we are not in our true identity; we are not coming from truth. We are in a belief system, a position, a self-concept. We are in a false identity and anything that we say, think or do, whatever its merits, is a defense of that false identity, a compensation and a reaction. As such, it cannot be wholly true. Only when we build on the foundation of our true identity, do we build on reality, and only when we build on reality, can we build a viable personality, viable relationships, and a viable society.