Can the Self be free of suffering?

 Question of the Week:  2/18 - 2/24

I want to ask you a question. Do you think its possible to be totally steeped in the self, and at the same time, be free of suffering?

When you are walking down the street and looking at the shoppes, or at a park looking at a squirrel, or in a bookstore reading a book, are you suffering? You might say, "Well, it depends on what I am thinking about." Exactly. In reality, you are not looking at shoppes or at squirrels, and you are not reading; you are not attentive at all. Rather, you are thinking about what should or should not be, based on the center known as the self.

If you look at a squirrel in the park, and you are completely absorbed by it, and all of your attention is there on the animal, then there is no room for suffering. Your attention is on the animal. If you are reading a great story, and give your attention to every facet, there is no suffering (even though you may feel the pain of the characters, but that is something different).

You may find that the problem is not necessarily on the self. It may be that you never actually give your attention to anything. You might have the appearance of attention; the concerned look, the raised eyebrow, the gentle nodding of your head in agreement; but appearance is meaningless.

Attention is either there, or it isn't.

Denying Attention

Let's say you go out to your local park to see if you can attend with the squirrels. You find one, give it a peanut, and watch it eat. Five seconds later, thought comes in, and you feel the twist and turn, the pull and push of things that you should have or should not have done. These thoughts are not always obvious, because we are so conditioned and habituated to this kind of half-living that we do not feel anything is necessarily wrong.

Unfortunately for so many people, it seems natural to feel bad in this way.

But when the thoughts come up, do we attend to them, seeing them for what they are? Not likely. Rather, we keep looking at the squirrel, pushing our thoughts back so that we might have, for the first time, clarity in attention. But there is no clarity, because pushing away the thought keeps our energy tied up in keeping it subdued.

So what has happened? We tried to be attentive with the squirrel, and we couldn't. Thought arose and we tried to suppress it in order to be attentive, but we couldn't. Thought was denied in order to have attention.

If you sit down with the squirrel, and if you are truly attentive, nothing will stop it because there is nothing to be stopped. It is not I watching the squirrel, but The squirrel is watched. It is pure being.

Attention is the engine of being.

The Power of Nature

Nothing will shut-up the mind faster than the beauty of nature. If you are walking in a ravine, turn the corner to an open plain, and suddenly there is a huge mountain range, the self is absent. It may come flying in a few moments later, but during the initial perception, there is only mountain.

If you lie down outside at night to view the stars, there is a great silence there. It is just the stars and the eyes that see them. Once you start thinking about your debt, or the guy that cut you off on the freeway, or your dickweed boss, then the stars are gone. Your eyes may still be looking, but without attention, the self can only see itself.

If you want to think on these things, if you want to be attentive, then go out in nature. Sit for awhile and really be with whatever is there. Sit in that silence, because it is always free of sorrow.

The Question

Can the Self Be Free of Suffering? Try asking a few other questions along with it.

Can you be steeped in the self without the idea that you need to be free of something?

Outside of the self, is there anything to be free from?

When you are suffering, what is it that suffers?

I know you want me to answer your question for you, but what would that do? If I say, "Yes, you can be free," what will you do? Believe that it is true and wait to be shown how to do it? If I say, "No, you can never be free," will you accept it? Or will you keep searching until you find the right guru that fits your sensibilities?

I am telling you, NO ONE can give it to you. You have to find out for yourself.

If there is a path to truth, it does not exist until you make a move. And as you walk forward, the path of your journey is erased with every step. In other words:

Truth is a field of freshly fallen snow with no tracks other than your own. And even those tracks are obliterated by gently drifting snow.