“But there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go. When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied. The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera. When I walk with a camera, I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut.
When I see this second way I am above all an unscrupulous observer.
But I can’t go out and try to see this way. I’ll fail, I’ll go mad. All I can do is try to gag the commentator, to hush the noise of useless interior babble that keeps me from seeing just as surely as a newspaper dangled before my eyes. The effort is really a discipline requiring a lifetime of dedicated struggle; it marks the literature of saints and monks of every order East and West, under every rule and no rule, discalced and shod. The world’s spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind’s muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. “Launch into the deep,” says Jacques Ellul, “and you shall see.”
The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all. But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought. The literature of illumination reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise. I return from one walk knowing where the killdeer nests in the field by the creek and the hour the laurel blooms. I return from the same walk a day later scarcely knowing my own name. Litanies hum in my ears; my tongue flaps in my mouth Ailinon, alleluia! I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.”
From the essay “Seeing,” by Annie Dillard.
“Many speak of the mind without ever investigating it for themselves. It’s easy to spend years studying spiritual concepts and eventually, one might feel they’re getting somewhere when they can speak freely about a topic, such as mind, without actually knowing what is true about it. If you wish, stop whatever you are doing, and close your eyes. Look within this head of yours, and before you speak about mind, see if you can find it. Without assuming it’s here, or imagining what it looks like, close your eyes and simply see if mind is something that exists without speaking or thinking about it.
By grace or good fortune, you’ll experience a level of insight that requires no more than two seconds of your time. You may, in fact, see there is no such thing called a mind, but only a sense of spaciousness within yourself whenever you dare to look within. If there is no mind outside of ideas describing mind, then mind is just an idea. It is a wonderful idea that acts as miraculous or as dysfunctional as your ideas about it suggest. If you wish to be clear and know the truth for yourself, relinquish all needs and necessities to speak about mind, blame mind, or even correct others who mention the idea of mind. Allow this moment to be simple and direct: if mind cannot be found directly when looking within, then it is no longer spoken of, nor is it even considered.
You may see right now how there is no mind, while wrestling with the experiences of mind. Such experiences of mind merely reflect how often you believed and identified with this idea called mind. When you no longer speak about mind, or blame it for anything, including thoughts, the experience of mind begins to subside without your constant effort of reinforcing it. Why speak about an idea, as if it’s something more than an idea, when you cannot find it beyond ideas? This is an essential step.
Without a mind here to be found, there is essentially nothing to blame for any of this. Without blame, something to overcome, or anything else to deny, there is simply an open-ended opportunity to face life directly. This delivers you directly into the heart of clarity. Just like many speak of a mind that cannot be found, there is a drastic misunderstanding that confuses true clarity with ideas imagined about it.
True clarity is the absence of understanding. Many unknowingly avoid this realization by pursuing some form of understanding, or maintaining a previously imagined level of understanding by repeating it, either to themselves or others. Any form of understanding offers you a fixed position of observation, which then becomes the perspective through which a world is viewed only to confirm whatever understanding is being assumed. True freedom and true clarity are one in the same.
It is freedom from the need to understand, or believe something needs to be further understood, that invites you to explore the miracle of life directly. Nothing is in the way of anything, but ideas about a mind that cannot be found, or a need to understand what will only be further misunderstood in the process.
Your need to understand may have led to some aha moments in the past and offered you support whenever you needed it most, but the big aha is revealed the moment you’re free from seeking it. When there is no mind to find, there is no understanding to seek. When there is no understanding to seek, there is nothing left to fear, avoid, define or deny. This may destroy all conventional ideas of spirituality. In doing so, it reveals the true essence of spirituality, which turns the compulsive burden of endless seeking into a celebration of a lifetime.
During this celebration, the real mind is revealed, and it’s not even a mind at all. It is the universe. The universe freely contemplates whatever is imagined — simply for the joy of considering the endless potential of infinite possibility. There is nothing to believe, nor is there anything to disbelieve. There is only the experience of whatever is being momentarily considered. Meanwhile, every idea being experienced blames ideas on other ideas, such as mind, ego, world, karma, etc…The universe has no problem with anything ideas suggest because every idea is a part of experiencing whatever possibility has somehow been imagined.
Ironically, you cannot experience the mind as the universe until you stop calling it the mind. What is essentially more important than holding your world of organized ideas together is letting it all drop away and noticing what remains. It is accepting the invitation to explore life on life’s unimaginable terms, simply by daring to experience this moment — without anything to prove or disprove about it.”
“Truth is not a reward for good behaviour, nor a prize for passing some tests. It cannot be brought about. It is the primary, the unborn, the ancient source of all that is. You are eligible because you are. You need not merit truth. It is your own. Just stop running away by running after. Stand still, be quiet.”