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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lindsey

How things are

From John Lindsey

The predominant experience now is one of silence. Thoughts and feelings flow on top of this silence, much like the upper currents of a river or ocean, but underneath there is pervasive quiet and stillness. There is a sense of timelessness as well: Not that the passage of relative time has stopped, but an internal singularity where time neither moves nor freezes. The felt-sense is somewhat holographic— like a snapshot that appears to move, but is actually still. Even when an apparent tumult of emotional upheaval, anxiety, sadness occurs, this unwavering silence persists. Interwoven with all of this is a consistent flow of love: A love that is unbounded by conditions, time, and space, that accepts all things and the absence of things completely and equally. This love extends outward and holds those I meet, regardless of our apparent differences. Of all the things listed in this lengthy description, the experience of boundless, depthless, endless love for absolutely everything—even when things seem uncomfortable, disagreeable, unpleasant, or painful—appears to be the most consistent. It's all held in an incomprehensible love. Compassion and empathy are almost involuntary.

The common spiritual assertion that strong emotions cease to impact the body and nervous system is certainly not true, though the effects do seem to have lessened in many—if not most—instances. This arc has happened over many years, moving from repressed emotion, to heightened emotion and reactivity, to a gradual tapering of reactivity, frequency, and intensity. Although I primarily find myself in a sense of groundedness and impartiality most of the time now, the predominant emotions that continue to arise are a sense of quiet joy (for no apparent reason) or a sense of quiet grief (which seems to be associated with noticing suffering in world events, like the current conflict in Ukraine). There is also an attunement to others nearby that is quite energetically and physically palpable, though I am cautious to scrutinize this. Additionally, there are lingering bodily and energetic tensions that arise intermittently. Any rejection of these tensions only strengthens them. Giving them attention and honest acknowledgment is usually enough for them to resolve, though some seem to need more frequent and/or lengthy attention than others.

Somatically, the sense of the physical body has become increasingly fluid. This could be said of much of this so-called “realization” or “natural state”: It seems to evade being fenced in with a set definition. At certain times, the body seems quite solid and definitive in its existence. At others, it seems much more spacious, with ill-defined borders. Everything within the reach of perception seems to be completely interwoven in an intimate, vital way; simultaneously, there is a pervasive sense of emptiness.

All of the above descriptions of the inner world apply equally to the outer (the “inner” and “outer” distinction seems unnecessary as I perceive them as the same the majority of the time, but for the purpose of this explanation I’ve divided them), leading to an experience of the environment that can sometimes feel disorienting: On one level, completely empty of any substance whatsoever; on another, more composed of life and fullness than I would have ever imagined. On solitary walks in the mountains this presents little difficulty, but in social settings it can seem much more complicated. Social dynamics and hierarchies sometimes seem harder to navigate, and my own aspirations as far as career and relationships have shifted considerably.

This is, at least in part, because there doesn’t seem to be a “doer”, “thinker”, “feeler”, etc. anymore, but because the brain and nervous system are accustomed to that protocol, there is a subtle kind of conflict. A habitual grasping continues even though there is no longer anything to grab hold of, like groping around in an empty room even though the lights are already on and it’s plain to see there’s nothing to touch. This grasping is fueled by doubt: That somehow I can’t have realized what I’ve realized, and I certainly have no right to talk about it or acknowledge it to anyone, even if I have. This is somewhat compounded by the fact that I haven’t had a formal teacher, though there has been a kind of “inner voice” that doesn’t seem the same as all my other thought patterns which has offered a compassionate and helpful lens to see the situation through.

It's useful to note that none of this feels "special" or "unique" in any way. It doesn't seem like any kind of exclusive experience or knowledge, simply because it's obvious that this is actually the way things naturally are. Even though everything I've described is so incredibly precious, and profound, and miraculous, it all seems very ordinary-- that is, at least, until doubt sets in.

As I’m sure you can gather from the above descriptions, language is a continual barrier when it comes to characterizing the nature and understanding of this experience. One of my great frustrations with many non-dual teachings is the lack of committal syntax by using lots of “seems to be”, “apparently”, “arising”, etc., in the narrative. Now that this is my reality I understand why such disclaimers are offered, but describing the unfolding of life in this way can feel pedantic. It’s easy to see why Rumi and the Zen masters mostly spoke about it through poetry.

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