The Myth of ‘Doing Nothing’
I recently was talking to a friend who was complaining of existential anxiety; which was dispelled by reading a good book on nonduality or attending an inspiring satsang, but which always returned. So I asked him what he ‘did’ on a daily basis to establish himself in nondual awareness, whereupon he grinned sheepishly indicating that he did nothing. Which made me ponder the teachings of many modern teachers of nondualism who say there is nothing to ‘do’ and everything just ‘happens by itself’. Indeed even in my book Beyond the Separate Self there is a chapter entitled ‘Nothing to Achieve, Find or Get’ which could give the impression that there is nothing that one needs to do … However I can assure you that if one continues to live in the same headspace without ‘doing anything’ then there will no change in one’s outlook and anxiety levels. For as I say in the book:
At a deeper level than this flow of fleeting objects (thoughts and sensations) we are this constant subject, awareness itself; this is already the case and as such cannot be achieved. All that is required is to realize this!
So awareness is central to our being, whilst thoughts and sensations are peripheral. This is self-evident for without awareness our thoughts and sensations would pass unnoticed. Thus we cannot lose this awareness; we just need to stop overlooking it.
It is impossible to get that awareness which you already are, and thus have in full abundance. All that is required is to recognize this. In this respect you do need to ‘get’ this, but this is in fact nothing as it is not a thing but the ‘ground’ from which all things arise, in which they exist and back into which they subside. So there is in fact ‘no thing to get’ and you do need to ‘get’ nothing(ness)!
So although there is:
‘nothing to achieve,’ we do need to realise the deeper level of pure awareness, for this to be the case.
‘nothing to find’, we do need to stop overlooking the awareness that is always present.
‘nothing to get’, we do need to recognize that we already have this awareness.
This realization, or recognition, of the deeper level of pure awareness is easily accomplished by directly investigating our own moment-to-moment experience. My book aims to provide a simple straightforward framework in which this investigation can take place. However even after the recognition of this deeper level we do need to cultivate, and establish, this by further investigation/contemplation for as it says in The Tibetan Book of the Dead:
All those of all [differing] potential, regardless of their acumen or dullness,
May realise [this intrinsic awareness].
However, for example, even though sesame is the source of oil and milk of butter,
But there will be no extract if these are unpressed or unchurned,
Similarly, even though all beings actually possess the seed of buddhahood,
Sentient beings will not attain buddhahood without experiential cultivation.
Nonetheless, even a cowherd will attain liberation if he engages in experiential cultivation.
For, even though one may not know how to elucidate [this state] intellectually,
One will [through experiential cultivation] become manifestly established in it.
One whose mouth has actually tasted molasses,
Does not need others to explain its taste.
Even after one has ‘tasted molasses’ this taste will dissipate after a time, requiring further ingesting for the taste to reappear. In the same way the effect of ‘awakening’ to the reality of the deeper level of pure awareness will dissipate if one ‘nods off’ again and re-identifies with the mind/body. So one needs to continually inquire into/investigate/contemplate the nature of Self and Reality for this ‘awakening’ to become established. It is only in this established awakening that all existential anxiety is banished.
Beyond the Separate Self, by Colin Drake is available at http://nonduality.com/btss.htm