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Excerpts about Personal Thread

Following Our Personal Thread to the Discovery that One of the Dimensions of Our True Nature is Nonconceptual

How do we make this discovery? As we learn more and more how to be where we are, and as we follow our personal thread, at some point the meaning of what is happening at any moment becomes nonconceptual. We are in the presence—we are presence—without the concept of presence; we are being here without thinking, “I am here.” Now that is not to be confused with being distracted. You can be “not here,” in the sense of being disconnected, and if someone points it out to you, you will recognize that you were somewhere far away. What I am talking about here is when you are quite aware of what is going on, but you are not self-reflecting in that place, not discriminating. And it is not that you don’t have the capacity to discriminate; it is just that sometimes it is not necessary to do so. In the presence of that ground of nonconceptual being, reification simply does not happen; it actually can’t happen because reification requires some kind of cognition. Any knowingness—even immediate knowingness, such as when we know the strength quality of presence by being it—has a conceptual component to it…….What I am calling nonconceptual here is beyond immediate and nonrepresentational knowing. It is beyond basic knowing or gnosis. It is not a knowing at all, and there is no recognition of anything; it is total innocence of mind, perceiving but not recognizing what we are perceiving. So, we see that we have the possibility of being where we are—to be in such nakedness, such purity, that we just are and that is that…….. No explanation is possible because there is nothing to explain, because there is nothing to discern—or, the discerning capacity does not function at that level. Awareness has gone deeper than discernment can go. It has reached the totally nonconceptual depth of True Nature, the non-cognitive depth of reality. Thus we recognize that True Nature—the nature of everything—is fundamentally nonconceptual, beyond mind. And, the fact that awareness is beyond the mind means that we can be free of the mind.

In the First Journey Your Personal Thread is the Thread of Understanding

Inquiry begins with the desire to find out what’s going on. You want to understand your experience in the moment. Inquiry leads you to greater and greater understanding of yourself in general, but it does this by helping you to understand yourself from moment to moment. In the first journey, this moment-to-moment understanding changes, transforms, becomes more, becomes less, moves in this direction, moves in that direction, and so on. We can say that in the first journey, your personal thread is the thread of understanding. The thread of your understanding is what tells you where you are in the first journey. This usually happens toward the end of it, when you can know where you are continuously, in the sense that you have an unbroken understanding of what is going on: what you are feeling, what you are experiencing, whether you are stuck or not, what kind of defense is going on, whether you are reactive or not reactive, what issues you are dealing with, and so on. This can never be done perfectly, but it is possible to do it more and more effectively as you move through the first journey. The whole thrust of the work on the first journey is to become aware of yourself to the point of knowing where you are at any given moment.

Seeing Yourself from the Center of Your Own Experience

This understanding is the heart of The Unfolding Now and has shaped its primary function: to act as a transitional mirror. The fact is that when we begin the inner journey, the capacity of our awareness to recognize itself is limited, so we need outside mirrors for a while. We do not even know our True Nature exists, much less how to recognize it, or that it is what we truly are. Our awareness is not developed enough to be able to stand on its own and to recognize its nature. So it needs mirroring to see past its own limitations. That is one reason why people join spiritual schools or go on retreats. The real mirror—which is the self-awareness you are cultivating in learning to mirror yourself—is to see yourself without judgment, without comparison, without self-hatred, without reification, and without conceptualization, but with compassion and courage and kindness and love and presence and awareness and intelligence. The teachings in this book have been offered as support for the process of becoming your own mirror in these different ways. They can help you develop the confidence that you can learn to sit and meditate, to inquire, to recognize yourself where you are, to see your own personal thread and be able to remain with it so that it unfolds and reveals the truth of what you truly are—your True Nature.

The Personal Thread of Essential Presence in the Second Journey

In the second journey, the distinguishing characteristic of your personal thread is the essential presence, something that is not available in the first journey. Because of this, we can’t clearly talk about unfoldment—the direct impact of the dynamism of Being in the soul—in the first journey, even though there is a current of experience. We can speak about unfoldment quite
precisely in the second journey because the center, which is the essential presence, is arising as one quality after another. Inquiry in the second journey means inquiring in order to know where you are—finding out where you happen to be on your journey. I don’t mean just your location in the field of the mandala—the manifestations of your life such as your emotions, thoughts, or actions. I mean where you are at the center, the place that is touched by Being. This means finding your place, recognizing your location in the essential space. Two elements are involved in this inquiry: first, seeing the center of the mandala, which means being aware of your presence and knowing exactly the quality of this presence; and second, being aware of and understanding the totality of the mandala, that is, the reverberations of the presence through the rest of your consciousness, and vice versa.

The Personal Thread, the Lifeline, is Most Delineated in the Second Journey

We are discussing the mandala in relation to the second journey because that’s where we can understand the question of personal thread most clearly and specifically. This is because the personal thread, the lifeline, is most obvious, most delineated, most specifically clear in this journey with presence. We can then use this specificity to understand the first journey more precisely. The personal thread is not so clear in the first journey because you are not directly in touch with the dynamism. Therefore there is no clear and specific center—it is as though you’re swimming in a sea that is your field of experience. But I am not saying that you cannot follow your personal thread in the first journey. It is simply more difficult because the thread is not characterized by an awareness of the mandala’s center. The question of personal thread, or of uniqueness of unfoldment, is relevant in all three journeys, but there are differences depending on which journey you are on. These differences have to do with your identity in each journey.

Your Personal Thread is Unique to You

Your personal thread is unique to you and can be in any place at any particular moment. Therefore, finding your thread—being where you are—cannot happen when you are working toward a particular aim or toward a particular state. You can’t take the position that you know what the enlightened state is, for example, and work toward making it happen, because the moment you do that, you close down inquiry. Then it is no longer inquiry, it’s something else, and you will have lost your thread. Similarly, if you do a particular practice and actualize some kind of expanded state, it may be unrelated to where you truly are. And if it is not where you are, you’ll feel a sense of meaninglessness. The meaninglessness will stick with you because this state is most likely not you; it is something accomplished, not a place where Being’s dynamism has freely situated you.

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