Review of The Sun Rises in the Evening, by Gary Nixon.
Reviewed by Jerry Katz
A Watercourse Way to Standing As Awareness
By Jerry Katz
About Gary Nixon
The following is taken from the Non-Duality Press site:
“Gary Nixon is Director of the Addictions Counselling Program at University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, where he is an Associate Professor. Gary enjoys a celebratory ordinariness of the days living with his wife Marcia and going for daily long runs in the coulees. He maintains a private nondual psychotherapy practice working with individuals and groups — this complements the passionate legacy of his published academic work and his editorship of Paradoxica: Journal of Nondual Psychology. He hosts the annual Paradoxica Nondual Psychology Conference.”
Gary Nixon says, “This book is an invitation to you to find completion and wholeness, to work through second stage recovery fully, including a necessary descent to let go of the separate self, and to embrace third stage recovery and abide in non-dual being.”
Although second stage, or stage two recovery, is never defined (nor is stage one), periodically Gary refers to addiction recovery pioneer Earnie Larsen who apparently made up the term “Stage II recovery.” Therefore I’ll quote from Larsen’s website for these definitions. They come from http://www.earnie.com/whoisearnie.asp#stageii :
“Stage I is about arresting the addiction or surviving the crisis. Stage II(tm) Recovery, which Earnie created in 1985, is about understanding the triggers and imprinting that left us vulnerable in the face of substitutes. … Stage II(tm) Recovery requires discipline, practice, and the ability to refuse to let the past rob you of your present. … Stage II(tm) Recovery answers will seldom be found in Stage I recovery groups. They have different focuses, and that’s okay. Keep in mind, one stage is not better than another. There can be no Stage II if Stage I has not been won. Recovery does not end with sobriety.”
Nor does recovery end with Stage two body/mind integration. As physically, socially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually integrated as the separate self may become in stage two, beyond that stage is third stage recovery, which means the dying to the separate self.
Gary notes that separate self is a hard nut to die to: “It is truly rare for people to have died to the underlying central addiction, that is their separate self. This means that it must be confronted at the end of stage two recovery so that they can make a passage into stage three recovery and abiding in non-dual being.”
Something I like:
I believe we all want our nonduality books to hit us hard. We become sensitized to these books. What shook us a couple years ago is familiar territory now. Yet we probably don’t want to feel personally attacked by an author or teacher. There are some who may be self-realized but easily offended or exasperated by someone they imagine is celebrating separate-self indulgences. I like this book because I don’t see Gary being offended. You can read some hard-hitting stuff here without ever having to negotiate the gaping jaws of “I’m self-realized, you’re not.”
Something else I like:
This is a well ordered and clearly explained book. Gary lays out the importance of abiding nondual awareness right away. Then he shows where the journey out of addiction gets stalled and how to go beyond it through the methodologies/understandings of Ken Wilber and A.H. Almaas. However there is no demand that the reader, counselor, or client become immersed in those teachings.
Every chapter elaborates on a theme, gives one or more stories to support it, and closes with a doable exercise for the reader. Gary divulges a lot about himself personally. He also cites case studies. Sometimes to support his themes he quotes well-known current or historical teachers/sharers of nonduality. This strong personal component makes the book very readable.
About himself, Gary writes,
“When I started my journey towards non-dual being, I did not know it at the time, but I was still caught in my narcissistic stance towards existence. I was addicted to showing how special I was. When I left law to embrace transpersonal psychology and Eastern contemplative ways of being, I carried this demand of my specialness with me. Because of early successes–graduating and practicing law at 23–I thought I was a brilliant person, and the doors of life would always open up to me. I never could have predicted how wrong this was and how truly I was a misguided fool.”
If you’re going to read a nonduality book, yes, it should from someone like that. It makes it easier to look at and admit one’s own foolishness so that one’s energy is free to … be free. Gary says it differently: “It seems essential that a person has to become aware of, to fully admit and let in to their consciousness, the fakeness and empty shell of their narcissistic pursuits of specialness, so that the fall into being becomes a possibility.”
What is this “fall into being”? I hope you don’t mind a longish rant.
This book is all about that fall into being. But I do have a question about it, a question of discernment. Because I’m not sure what is meant by a fall into being. Nonduality writers these days all talk about the realization of “just this” or taking one’s stand in awareness. That’s fine, but something is missing. That’s not the only way to describe a fall into being.
From my own experiences as an innocent boy between the ages of 7 to 10 or so — not as an older adult looking for something spiritual that would ease the pain of being a fool in a foolish world — but as a boy, I involuntarily took my stand in what I called “I am.”
When the “I am” thing dissolves there is the standing free, standing alone, or standing as awareness. That’s been my experience. Although there were a few years in my early twenties where I tried to attain something like enlightenment, it was only when I remembered “I am” that I saw no need to do anything other than to keep remembering it, or, as Nisargadatta said, to “follow the I am.”
But no one talks about the “I am” anymore. Everyone “Tony Parsons” it away. I say hang out there a little while. Live life from there for a few years. Let it dissolve in its own time. Don’t listen to the people who want to yank the “I am” out of you and pull you into their “standing as awareness” understanding.
You never have to take your stand as awareness in any sort of going-to-a-retreat-to-talk-to-unmani-so-that-I-can-be-freer sort of way. Or in a going-on-a-seven-day-silent-retreat-with-Adyashanti-so-that-the-hockey-game-in-my-head-can-settle-down-and-i-can-say-hello-to-awareness-itself kind of way.
Coming from the “I am” you see that the business of standing in awareness isn’t yours anyway. It’s “I am’s” business. You’ve released into “I am.” When “I am” dissolves or goes away, you’re taking your stand as awareness whether you like it or not. Of course there’s no “you” and no “your” nor is there “standing as awareness.” There just is. But now I’m sounding like a nondualist, which I’m not.
I’m more of an “I-am-ist,” if you want to know the truth. And there are two kinds of “I-am-ists.” Since living as the “I am” means living as the flow of life, it can be swung like a backpack onto one’s psyche in order to manifest stuff. You want a successful business or book, fancy car, hot gf? Bring your psychic energy to the I am. That’s the fill-your-backpack-with-stuff kind of “I-am-ist.” If you’re into that, Wayne Dyer is your man.
The other kind is the one who doesn’t want or need anything and simply gazes at the suchness of “I am.” That’s what I eventually came to. You don’t gaze at the suchness as a technique in order to manifest a higher understanding or to start a nonduality website. You gaze at the suchness of “I am” because you have no other choice. You don’t want to manifest anything. It’s enough to just be. There’s no gazer in that process because it is clear that the “I am” is gazing right back at you. There is only the gazing. This gazing at suchness — it’s a gazing of suchness upon suchness — when it arises naturally, does eventually lead to the dissolution of the whole “I am” thing. What is left is what we call awareness, consciousness, just this, abiding as nondual awareness, etc. Wayne Dyer would never talk about this because there’s no fame, money, PBS, or Oprah in it. But believe me, he knows all about this nonduality stuff. So does Deepak Chopra. But they live out their missions to be mass communicators, and that’s fine.
Have I been digressing?
It’s very powerful and effective to live your life from “I am.” It’s what I would call stage three recovery. Stage four, then, would be abiding in nondual awareness. Am I re-writing Gary’s book? Oops.
Back to the original question, “What is the fall into being?” In my experience you can fall into the “I am,” you can fall into the gaze of suchness upon suchness, and you can fall into abiding as nondual awareness. I suppose. And although Gary has his own terminology he does talk about different depths of giving up or “falling into.” A description of the gaze of suchness is seen here:
“Having given up striving, a deep relaxation takes place as there is no place to go, and nothing to do. Understanding that all is perfect as it is right now means we do not have to strive to change anything or anyone in this place of neither me nor you. Everything is okay in suchness as it is right now. In this isness it is all here, right now. This isness is it. There is no method to let go, it is just a seeing in this moment.”
At a deeper level of “falling into” there is no seer of the moment. Gary writes:
“The true panacea for suffering lies in awakening to reality and what is, as we realize there is no such thing as a permanent self, as in actuality no one exists. And as one goes deeper into this, one starts to enjoy what has been called the original medicine and that is ‘never born, never died’.”
In the construction of this book you can see the increasing depths and ways of giving up and you can practice them through the exercises.
I only wish there was more of a line in the sand when it comes to the “I am” knowings and the place beyond, which in this book is called abiding in nondual awareness. But my wish applies to all nonduality books.
The sound bite
So I have to sum up my feelings, my opinion, and give a sound bite, right? Look. We’re all addicts. Addicts to our little self. We all need help. Raise your hand if you don’t need any help. (Anyone mind helping me raise my hand? I’m getting older.) Gary Nixon’s book is a watercourse way to standing as awareness. Each chapter flows along a water bed and cuts deeper and deeper as it flows along. The question is, “Do you float on top and look down into the depths, or do you dive into the abyss?” It’s truly your choice.
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