November Project: Question #2 This exchange comes from a conversation on Google Talk.
Questioner: Hi, I've recently come across your website and was intrigued by your writings and your story. I was wondering if it would be possible to talk with you/ask a question or two sometime?
Takuin: Sure, it is fine. What did you want to ask?
Questioner: Well (I hope I can summarize this without rambling too much) basically my question, I think, is related to the difficulty I'm having right now with understanding nonduality on a conceptual level, but not much more, because I'm having trouble motivating myself to do practical things, and I realize that this is something I'll have to work through myself, and no one can do it for me, but I feel like I've been spinning my wheels a lot.
I'm a college student, now on leave, and don't know what to do because I can't seem to focus on schoolwork... I feel like I spend too much time reading nonduality stuff and getting caught up in the "spiritual seeker" mode but I don't know what else to do (sorry I'm taking so long to type, by the way, I keep editing my words).
Takuin: Are you really interested in non-duality? I mean, as a subject? For example, some people are interested in classic cars, vintage signs, guitars, languages, and so on. Is that essentially your interest in non-duality?
There is nothing wrong with that if it is so.
Questioner: I don't think so, I'm not interested in it as a "philosophy" or something to study or play around with. I feel like I was drawn to it on some intuitive level.
A therapist introduced me to Adyashanti and other teachers and I just felt a connection...not sure how to describe it...it felt true.
But I think sometimes the ego comes in and I start wanting to fulfill this ideal image of myself that I want to have...wise, compassionate, helping people...etc.
Takuin: How do you see that?
"the ego comes in and I start wanting to fulfill this ideal image of myself that I want to have...wise, compassionate, helping people...etc."
How do you see this? Is it you, disappointed at seeing how this goes around in circles?
Is it the you, and the thing it holds out, observing? How do you see it? I am just curious.
Questioner: Hmm...not sure how to answer...I feel like there's some part of me that feels like it's all okay, it's part of the process, and it will resolve itself when it's time, and another part that says this is NOT okay, and I need to figure this out and not procrastinate and mess things up...
Takuin: The most important thing is to understand how you are functioning. and I do not necessarily mean a focus on the physical body, although that is a part of it. But the mind is very tricky, and you can be caught up in all of that without knowing.
Non duality, as a teaching, is really not very important. It is not a 'useful' pursuit....'useful' is not the right word, but let's go on...
You'll need to see this for yourself, but there may be a tendency, after reading all the various books, to look for the thing you've been told about, which is not the way of your functioning. What the teachers say may turn out to be true in the end, but you'll only know if you find it, and not if you follow it, if that makes sense to you.
I ask these questions because I am interested in your functioning. I want to know what goes on underneath. If you take that same curiosity, you can find whatever it is on your own. Looking inward is not the same thing as taking a teaching and trying to find it outwardly.
I'm not saying any of it is bad, but the way humans treat enlightenment....the pursuit...it can be a distraction from living.
But in that sense, it is really no different from any other destructive pursuit. ;)
Questioner: That's true. and yet I keep doing it, even though I know on some level that I'm running away from what's here, from what is. My concentration difficulties have actually been around for a while, even before getting into nonduality...therapists have said that I have ADD, and I think part of the appeal of nonduality was that finally, here was something saying that there was nothing wrong with me, I didn't need to be fixed. and I know you're not a therapist and probably can't comment on this, but I just thought I'd mention this, because I've never figured out how to deal with it, how to look within when there is so much distraction and turbulence inside.
I feel like I'm constantly either resisting or indulging thoughts, and not getting in touch with much beyond that.
Takuin: If you feel like you're constantly resisting or indulging thoughts, that is a great place to begin, and you might want to explore around that area.
The answer is not to have someone else tell you how to handle it, but to go into it and handle it delicately on your own. Frustration will teach you how to be free of frustration.
If you feel a real struggle, it is wonderful. You don't have to imagine what it would be like to struggle and then theorize about how to get through it....it is actually there and very available.
But many people do not have the guts to go through with it. You have to face the self, as it is. It is not always a happy place, but it is beautiful; the way it happens to you can never happen to any other human being in the same way, as your eyes have seen things none of us can ever see
And as it is unique to you, it must be you that takes care of it. It is true that the way things arise for me is the same as they arise for you, but that is just the mechanism itself...it becomes unique because of what you have seen, where you have gone, whom you have known, etc., if that makes sense to you.
You can do all of this without rejecting anything your physician has told you...don't ignore any of that.
Questioner: Yes, that's true. I've been reflecting on these things while still trying to be open to what the therapists have been saying.
I just wish i could cut through the noise inside and determine which is truth and intuition and which is ego. But I guess this desire, in itself, is ego, and only I can look into this, as you said.
I just get so confused sometimes...or i confuse myself. :-p
Takuin: This search is no different from what others do in search of anything else...
Writers always want to know what Hemingway, or some other writer, wrote like, or where he lived, or what his writing schedule was, and they think if they follow that, they can produce work like his.
A guitarist might want to know how Shawn Lane practiced, or what scales he used to solo with, and they hope to be great like he was through that emulation...
It goes on and on in the physical world. It is the same with the search for oneness or enlightenment or whatever. one wants to read the right book, hear the right dialogue, sit close to the right guru, learn the right mediation...
It is rare that the human being looks within for the answer...to even see if there is an answer.
One must listen to everyone, but follow no one.
Everything we have tried to free ourselves with is outward; following this or that. All of that has to stop. For the good of all of us, that has to stop.
Questioner: I understand, and I honestly don't really feel like I can totally trust any particular "authority" because I know it has to come from within me...but I think I keep moving outward because when I look within, it feels like all I get is noise, unending chatter and images...
And I know that's typical to some extent, and i try to give it permission to be there, but it just seems to have no end.
Maybe I'm not really letting go, I'm wanting to get somewhere else, away from the noise...but I feel like I have no control over that.
Takuin: You will have to look in all directions. Is the problem the noise? Or is there a person thinking something else should be there? Is there a difference between the noise and the listener? For that matter, is there anything other than the noise, unending chatter and images?
Do you have any control? Over what? Forget what others might say on these topics....What do you see?
I am not telling you...I am asking for you to tell me, if you can. You might not be able to, and that is fine.
Questioner: I feel like...my experience tells me that I have no control, and my mind says that if I really let that in, then how am I going to get anywhere, accomplish anything, do what I need to do in life. I understand on some level that "no control" doesn't mean "no responsibility" but I think it's because I don't really know how to live like that, without a sense of control to push me to do what needs to be done.
Takuin: In the physical world, we need to manipulate objects and so on - we can use the word 'control' here - to get things done. Any goal is dependent upon control and release and manipulation. It doesn't matter if you are a politician, or a painter. But is this the control you are speaking about?
It is clear that as a physical body, physical things must be done. But that is really not what we're speaking of when we look within. It has no real substance...it is not easy to manipulate like physical objects in the world.
The mind, or whatever we might say, applies physical attributes to something completely beyond the physical.
Questioner: Right, and I feel like if I have any control over my thoughts, it's minimal, which makes it difficult for me to do things like writing.
Takuin: 'You' as the controller of thought....that is interesting to me.
Questioner: Yeah, that's what it feels like...there's a "me" trying to control, that feels like it needs to control in order to do things like that...write, reflect, meditate, whatever...or even just stay focused on a simple task, actually. Sometimes it can be like that.
Takuin: In what way is that controller different from thought? I am not saying it is or it isn't. Just curious how you see this. If 'you' can control something, it has to be apart from you, separate in some way. It must be something not a part of you, otherwise you could not wrangle it and control it.
How do you see this?
Questioner: Well, I suppose that the controller could be just another thought...a thought that says I need to control...
But then I wonder what to do with that, because it seems to be just an intellectual or conceptual understanding.
Takuin: If that is as far as you go, then yes, it is just intellectual understanding.
But it is only an understanding, in that sense, if you have decided and made a conclusion. Conclusion may cut off your fullest explorations....you may find this out, and I don't want to tell you it is so, but you must be aware of what you are doing when you conclude...it cuts off other possibilities....but even if there is no other possibility, there is no need to conclude on these things.
It is not a matter of hearing someone else say the thought and the thinker are one, then following it....it may be true, but if you cannot see it for yourself, it is just a conclusion or an agreement with something that sounds pleasing for you.
Confound yourself at every turn! ;)
Something you might find useful is to write these things out....if a subject seems too heavy, sometimes writing it down takes a weight off the mind. I don't think I have ever written for this specific purpose, but it might be useful to you.
Especially if you are 'more noisy' than usual. ;)
Questioner: Haha, yes, I've tried writing, but it seems that I tend to struggle with putting the thoughts into words...like they move too fast for me, or they feel too scattered...sometimes I feel like a have to organize a disheveled library or something, and find the right words.
But maybe if I could be more patient with it, it might be helpful.
Takuin: Well, that kind of writing is something only for you, so it doesn't have to be written well, or for the consumption of others. It doesn't even have to make conventional sense, and you don't have to keep it afterward. You can have a BBQ with friends, and burn the pages in a ceremony.
Questioner: Ha! Yes, that's true.
So I guess what you're saying is that there are no shortcuts with this...as much as my ego may want them. ;-) I guess I'll sit with this, with what you've said, being open, not grasping for answers because I think they'll give me control and solve my "problems."
Takuin: Don't think of the term 'shortcut', because there is never any indication of real distance. You will see this.
Take it slowly. And if you have frustration, anger, or whatever, it is good. It is there to teach you. Just don't look for the state others may speak of...it does not exist as something to search for. That doesn't mean you have to stop reading any particular books....you don't have to change anything apart from your involvement. Your sticky fingers will mess it all up, then it becomes very difficult to clean. ;)
Questioner: Thank you so much for all your help and patience with my many questions.
Takuin: It is no problem. I spend a lot of time with others in this way, so it is not unusual. It is always good to hear from the minds of others. I like it.
Thanks very much for the questioner in this dialogue. Hopefully, we will meet again at some point.