4 – Yearning
A deep longing to return to the original state of Being
‘I desire you more than food and drink.
My body, my senses, my mind hunger for your taste.
I can sense your presence in my heart
although you belong to all the world.
I wait with silent passion for one gesture, one glance from you.’ – Rumi
Jez: When you think about the Opening you had, what do you feel?
Matthew: Happiness, Joy, contentment… But it’s one step removed, because it’s the memory of those feelings, rather than having them now. So it’s bittersweet, because the memory is beautiful, but it’s tempered by the fact that it went and I don’t know how to get it back. Is there any way you can make Choice-less Awareness appear? How do you get it?
Jez: And so the game goes on…
Matthew: What do you mean?
Jez: Your Personality thinks it’s found a new toy to play with, a new practice, a new goal to Distract you with. It wants to be able to say to you: ‘When I learn how to get Choice-less Awareness I can be happy.’ It’s totally understandable – that’s what I did after my Openings; I was trying to force that clarity of vision to stay. But ironically, that intention is a sure-fire way for the Personality to stay in control, and to not experience Choice-less-Awareness.
Matthew: This is confusing: It’s obviously really beneficial so of course I want to try and get it.
Jez: The point is, ‘you’ can’t get it. Was it ‘you’ who got it on the village green? No, it would be more accurate to say it appeared when ‘you’ (i.e. the Personality) was not there in the driving seat. Choice-less Awareness can’t be possessed by Personality because it comes from beyond it.
We’ve ended up in the same Catch-22 situation as when we discussed trying to find liberation through practice*. That’s because Choice-less Awareness is a central attribute of Being. You can’t ‘get’ Choice-less Awareness, you can’t make it appear; it happens through grace when you’re in contact with Being.
Matthew: What do you mean by ‘grace’ in this context?
Jez: I mean life has a way of reaching us in the form of experiences that push us beyond our usual limits, like your Opening. The Personality is upheld by our belief in it; transcendent experiences momentarily take us to a perspective beyond that belief, beyond Personality. These are gifts from life; we don’t earn them. It has nothing to do with being good, ‘spiritual’ or having done years of dedicated practice.
Grace descends in all sorts of ways and situations, not just happy, blissful ones like Openings. As I’ve mentioned, Choice-less Awareness can appear when the Suffering of Personality creates a kind of pressure, a sharpening of focus that pushes you beyond your normal operating mode. What this means practically is that you’re no longer able to deny or look away from Suffering (as happens in Personality Awareness).
Matthew: This reminds me of something I heard about suicidal people who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and survived. Very few who jump do survive but, of those who lived to tell the tale, most said that, as soon as they jumped, the problems that had driven them to suicide seemed irrelevant.
Jez: That’s a pretty radical way to experience a taste of life beyond Personality! The Suffering doesn’t have to be quite so extreme to invOKe an experience of Choice-less Awareness; it plays a part in the recovery process of alcoholics, for example. 12-Step meetings start with introductions such as: ‘I am John and I’m an alcoholic.’ John is affirming he’s aware of the problem; there’s no denial of it any more.
Moments of Choice-less Awareness can be a huge step forward, but they’re just the beginning, because the problem that’s been acknowledged (such as John’s alcoholism) has roots deep within his psychology. This means that, as you move forward and go deeper into what’s been repressed, more resistance can come into play. You can get stuck and then lose that original experience of Choice-less Awareness.
Taking the example of John, it’s been uncomfortable for him to admit to himself that he’s an alcoholic – that has taken Choice-less Awareness and willingness. To pluck up the courage to go to the AA meeting and come out publicly with his problem by declaring: ‘I’m an alcoholic’ is another huge hurdle. But having done that, he feels like resting: He’s got the support of the whole group; he’s wounded and vulnerable, but able to get by.
So there’s a danger here of getting too comfortable and becoming stuck after grace has given you the gift of the Opening. What happens then is John ends up in a new identity: the alcoholic Personality. Everywhere John goes, he announces ‘I don’t drink alcohol, I’m a recovering alcoholic.’ So the very act of stopping the denial of his alcoholism turns into an affirmation of a new identity that his Personality has adopted.
So these steps forward, which happen through grace, can falter and disappear: Your childhood Openings were also neutralised when your parents showed no interest and your friends ridiculed you; it was like a flower starved of sunlight. You were taught to hide them away, ignore them, and then you lost touch with them. All Openings and breakthroughs can be swallowed up by Personality, which is infinitely adaptable in neutralising threats to its dominance.
Matthew: Is that what happened after your Openings too?
Jez: Yes. After each Opening passed I’d do anything to bring them back.
Jez: By writing about them. I wrote pages and pages, wringing the experience of them from my memory, trying to bring them into my everyday reality. I wanted to follow them and find out where they led; it was a Yearning to return to the original state of Being. Let’s give it a capital ‘Y’ to differentiate this Yearning from other kinds of yearning.
Matthew: Where do you think Yearning comes from?
Jez: That’s a good question. It’s certainly not the Personality. Following that call back home is the last thing that Personality wants to do, because that path leads to its dissolution.
Matthew: So how would you explain the existence of this Yearning?
Jez: I haven’t really thought about it before.
Matthew: But if I pushed you to try to answer where that Yearning comes from…?
Jez: I’d say there’s a pattern in human life which I’ve outlined in the first collection of these discussions: We’re born in the original state of Being, then gradually the Personality takes over, that state is forgotten and then we live in the Dream that the Personality creates. But it seems that, in some people, it’s not totally forgotten. There’s a distant, primal memory of it that survives. It’s from this memory that the Yearning to Wake Up from the Dream arises.
Matthew: Up until now, you’ve mostly used the term ‘the Natural State’ to refer to a life beyond Personality. Why are you now referring to it as ‘Waking Up’?
Jez: The term ‘the Natural State’ is appropriate when talking about how we enter the world: It’s natural, because we’re born with it, and it’s a state because, when we become identified with Personality, it passes. But now we’re starting to talk about the possibility of returning to that viewpoint as an adult, after the Dream of Personality has become established. So now the approach is different: Rather than the Natural State being a gift that’s just part of who we are in our innocence as children, it’s returned to from the point of view of experience. So it becomes appropriate to use the term ‘Waking Up’ (from the Dream of Personality) because it refers to the approach to the Natural State from the perspective of experience.
Matthew: When you use the phrase ’Wake Up from the Dream’, it reminds me of the beginning of the film The Matrix when Neo, the main character, has dreams that are more ‘real’ than his waking life.
Jez: Yes, the idea in the film is that we think we’re awake and our dreams, the ones we have when we’re physically asleep, are just fantasies. Neo’s experiences suggest it’s the other way around: During his waking state he’s in a kind of dream and what’s really going on is experienced in his dreams. It’s a nice poetic analogy for a science fiction film, but it’s not accurate when it comes to this Understanding.
Matthew: Why not? According to you we do live in a Dream state created by Personality.
Jez: Yes, that half of the analogy works, but it’s the ‘dreams’ being real’ bit that’s inaccurate, because they mean the dreams we have during physical sleep. Most dreams are just flotsam of the mind, reflections of Personality. What’s experienced in them is often just repressed Emotions, patterns and desires trying to have a say in the form of stories.
So don’t get misled when I compared writing down my experiences of Choice-less Awareness to trying to remember dreams we have in the night. Like dreams, Choice-less Awareness provides an alternate reality to the sleepwalking state of Personality, but they aren’t the same thing at all. They’re coming from a different direction. Dreams are fantasies – they can’t be trusted; they’re mostly still manifestations of Personality. (I say mostly because, while Choice-less Awareness can appear in dreams, it’s an exception.)
What is seen in Choice-less Awareness is the only thing that can be trusted, the only experience that’s truly free from the viewpoint of Personality because it comes from outside the Personality’s Dream.
Matthew: If Choice-less Awareness is needed to Wake Up from the Dream of Personality, yet there’s nothing you can do to make it appear, how does anyone Wake Up?
Jez: ‘You’ can’t make it appear but it can appear, through grace, just as it did in the Opening. It can happen that a faint taste of Choice-less Awareness comes with you, back into your everyday life. It’s as if the experience has been so strong that it lingers; there’s an imprint of it in your normal daily consciousness.
Matthew: So this isn’t just a memory of Choice-less Awareness from the Opening that you’re talking about?
Jez: No, it’s the actual experience of it. It may not be very strong, but it can give you a distance, a perspective on your life that wasn’t there before.
Matthew: Without there being an actual Opening you mean?
Jez: Yes, an Opening momentarily stops you in your tracks because its viewpoint is so strong and different to your everyday consciousness. What I’m talking about isn’t so dramatic; at first you may hardly even notice it’s there.
Matthew: I’m not totally clear what you mean.
Jez: OK, the Personality creates a Dream but you’re not conscious of that fact – you’re metaphorically ‘in the dark’. Let’s symbolise that as the dark of night. What I’m talking about is like having a tiny light, which glows in the night and illuminates the objects immediately around it.
Matthew: A glow in the night – that sounds like a pretty small light!
Jez: Yes, it can start small, its reach is limited but even a small light can help you see what’s around you; at least you’re less likely to bump into things. It’s a start. If life has implanted in that person the Yearning to return home, then that Choice-less Awareness, that glow of light, can be picked up like an ember, blown on, protected and nurtured so it gets a bit brighter, and then it can show you the way forward.
Matthew: But I thought ‘I’ could do nothing to help bring this about?
Jez: You can’t. This has nothing to do with Seeking or trying to avoid the Suffering of Personality. It’s an impulse to see through Personality; a Yearning to return home. Either that impulse is there or not. If it is there, a whole new world beyond the Dream of Personality starts opening up to you.
* The Story of ‘You’ – Chapter 35