Someone wrote the following:
A big part of my question on 'how to?' comes from seeing the
confidence that you and other teachers exude in regards to
enlightenment. Teachers like you, Adyashanti and especially teachers
such as Nisargadatta have such an iron rock solid self-assuredness about
the truth - that I don't seem to share. I am in a state of questioning,
where you are not, and I want this rock solid assuredness!
the scenario i find myself in is similar to a carrot on a stick in
front of a donkey. You have what I do not. And i reach for this carrot
(enlightenment) and every time I get disappointed and even sometimes
chastised, well in front of Nisargadatta i am sure I would be!
frustration of this is becoming absolutely and intolerably unbearable!
Is there something i am not getting? Is there a refuge or not? How come
you have rock solid iron assuredness where i do not? Can you offer me
anything here? Should i even want enlightenment?
I replied as follows:
Your question is a very good one. And while I cannot speak for the
other teachers you mention, I can share my own experience and
We often search for things like "rock solid
assuredness" in the wrong place. We hope to find some kind of solidity
and sureness either in the outer world by becoming secure and safe
through money and power, or we hope to find it in some final
understanding or enlightenment experience that will stick around. And
these things never give us that sense of solidity, assuredness or
security that we seek because both outer and inner experience is always
The true source of everything that matters including a
solid sense of connection to Being is emptiness itself. Emptiness is at
the core of everything including our body and our awareness. Yet
emptiness does not seem like a very promising place to find anything
solid! And it is not that emptiness itself is solid, emptiness has no
qualities, that is why we call it emptiness. But while emptiness has no
qualities, it does have an infinite capacity to express or create all of
the qualities of existence that really matter like love, peace, joy,
strength, clarity, compassion and many more. These qualities are real
and "solid". They have much more substance when they arise than our
thoughts and mental images, and they even have more reality and solidity
than physical objects.
The challenge is that you can never know
what will arise out of emptiness in any particular moment, or even if
anything will arise at all. So one moment there may be a powerful sense
of pure existence that is solid and more real than a mountain of stone
arising out of the empty source of all experiences. And the next moment
there may be more of a sense of spacious light joy that does not feel
particularly solid, but is still incredibly real. And the next moment
may just be plain empty beyond any concept of emptiness we can imagine.
you are interpreting as a rock solid assuredness in the teacher may
instead be a deep sense of trust that whatever arises next will be fine.
I do not ever know what is going to arise in the next moment, but I
have developed a visceral sense of trust that it will be fine whatever
it is. Trust is subtly different from the rock solid sensation of
assuredness you describe that can still come and go. Trust is more like a
soft warm golden light that allows an open and totally accepting
embrace of uncertainty and surprises. It is more subtle and yet more
real than even the experiences of certainty that come and go. It is a
more fundamental quality that arises out of the emptiness that
everything else also appears in.
The recognition of your capacity
for trust is gained from experience. You probably trust physical
objects to behave like physical objects because you have so much
experience of them. The same thing can happen with more and more
experience of your true nature. However, the trust of true nature is
necessarily more subtle because true nature is so infinitely varied in
its expression. Yet this subtlety means that as this essential trust
deepens, more and more can be included. It ultimately turns out that
everything that has ever happened has actually come from this infinite
capacity of your true nature as emptiness to express itself in all of
the dimensions of existence.
This is why it is so helpful to
deeply explore and sense and understand every experience that arises.
They are all showing you something about your true nature. I would
suggest that you make friends with your uncertainty and get to know it
very well. Uncertainty is the lack of certainty. And the lack of
anything is actually just the experience of emptiness. Whenever it seems
like something is missing, that means there is an experience of
emptiness. It is an endless surprise to find that the source of the
thing that is missing is that same feeling of lack or emptiness. Any
certainty or insight or understanding that you ever feel comes directly
out of the sense of emptiness which your mind can label as a lack of
certainty. In fact, it is in the moments when we allow ourselves to not
know that insight or knowing is most able to arise.
The trust is
in knowing that even when certainty is not here, that the source of
certainty is here. And it is also the source of love, joy, curiosity,
and everything else that really matters. The important thing is not an
ongoing experience of solidity or assuredness or any other quality of
Being, but rather a trust that those qualities will arise when truly
needed. And since trust is the more important aspect, it turns out that
this does not mean that an experience of solidity or assuredness arises
whenever we want it to. For the trust to become fully developed requires
us to endlessly let go of any agenda for how it should feel or what
should arise. That is how you can discover that whatever is here can be
trusted completely. The emptiness knows better than you what is needed
in this moment.
I hope this is helpful.
Nirmala is a nondual spiritual teacher in the Advaita tradition of nondual self inquiry. He offers satsang or
“gatherings for the truth” across the United States and around the
world as a celebration of the possibility, in every moment, of
recognizing the limitless love that is our true nature. He also offers
Nondual Spiritual Mentoring, or spiritual counseling, in one-on-one satsang sessions either in person or over the phone. He is the author of several free spiritual ebooks about nonduality, spirituality, spiritual awakening, including a collection of spiritual poetry entitled Gifts with No Giver. More information about mentoring sessions and free satsang videos are available on his website at http://www.endless-satsang.com.