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Simplicity

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Simplicity

A Clear and Simple Sense of Presence Without Self-Reflection

In this spaciousness my own thoughts and feelings appear: a constellation of thoughts and subtle feelings, all related to images and impressions about my identity, about who I am. This psychic cluster, like a cloud in the spaciousness of mind, provides the mind with the familiar feeling of identity, an identity totally dependent on memories of my past experience. Contemplating the totality of the cluster, without taking an inner position about it, I recognize that it is a mental phenomenon. On seeing this, I become distinctly aware that it is external to me. The feeling-recognition is: “this is not me.” The focus of attention spontaneously shifts. The psychic cluster gently fades away, almost imperceptibly, like a cloud slowly dissipating. When it is gone, what is left is simplicity, a clear and simple sense of presence without self-reflection. There are no thoughts about the experience, no feelings about it, only the simplicity of presence. Clarity, space, stillness and lucidity bring a sense of a crisp cloudless sky around a snow-capped mountain top. The sun is about to set, and the windows open on the East, so the bedroom is somewhat dark. The sun illuminates some of the hillside, while the rest is steadily cooled by the expanding gentle shade.

Locating Ourselves Anywhere Within the Self-Structure Separates Us from the Simplicity of Being

When one is completely being the Essential Identity, the experience no longer takes the form of being or seeing a point of light. The sense of size disappears, even the feeling of identity disappears. Self-realization becomes a matter of being, purely being, with an increasing understanding of what this means. There is a sense of simplicity and innocence, of just simply being. It is not a matter of being oneself and knowing this by reflecting on the experience of oneself. There is no reflection on the state, no desire to analyze it. There is a sense of being alone, without the concept or feeling of aloneness. The aloneness is the perception of oneself as pure, undefiled and uncontaminated. There is lightness and freedom. The mind is quiet and sometimes without thought. This is a delicate state of the Essential Identity and is very vulnerable to obscuration by concepts and ideas. Concepts and ideas—even those of enlightenment and liberation—tend to obscure this state, even to eliminate it. Words cannot totally capture it. It is being prior to conceptualization. More than all the discourses in the world, the clarity of this pure being illuminates the barriers against realizing it, gross and subtle. We begin to see that locating ourselves anywhere within the self-structure separates us from this simplicity. Any motive, any hope, any desire, any ego movement means identifying with the structured self, with the ego-self. Thus, any movement of rejection, choice, desire, motive, hope, preference, holding, grasping, trying or effort will separate the self from this simplicity of being.

Practice, Fully Realized, is Mature Enough to Accept the Ordinary Simplicity of Whatever is Happening

True practice means letting ourselves explore what is happening in this moment. For a long time, we can’t help thinking that exploration will take us deeper and will reveal more. And it does reveal more and more until, at some point, we might recognize that the revelation is not headed in any particular direction or to any specific place. We might recognize that whatever is being revealed at any moment, from the very first moment we practice, is realization, is reality manifesting itself. What else could it be? Who else would be doing it? Practice fully realized is mature enough to accept the ordinary simplicity of whatever is happening as what realization is at the moment. But it takes a great deal of work to develop that kind of maturity. We have to fully exhaust all other possibilities for that simplicity to manifest. We have to experience and understand and embody all kinds of spiritual dimensions and all kinds of enlightenment in order to be free and to accept our everyday ordinariness without it having to be anything else. We cannot one day decide to be simple and ordinary. We need only to live each moment as it is, to live each moment fully and authentically without rejection or acceptance, without commentary or second guessing. With such total practice, we begin to live the mystery of the paradox of practice and grace.

Recognizing that the Absolute is Simplicity Itself

Fulfillment saturates her experience, and she begins to experience a new order of contentment. Her contentment and happiness cease to be primarily caused by life happenings, for it is now the natural condition of the heart that has found its beloved. She feels mature, ripened, and free; she feels herself as the ipseity, with its immeasurable depth, luminous vastness, and blissful intimacy. (See Luminous Night’s Journey, chapter 10, for more discussion of this process of ripening.) Even this sense gradually and subtly passes away as the soul abides in the mystery of the absolute. As we become accustomed to this condition it becomes more ordinary and simple. The soul feels she is a complete but ordinary human being. She is aware of her nature as that of the inscrutable absolute, but feels completely ordinary and normal. There is no sense of the extraordinary, while in fact the self-realization of the absolute ipseity is quite an unusual realization. The sense of the big deal is due to the excitement of the discovery. After that, with the ripening, one feels simple and ordinary, and recognizes that the absolute is simplicity itself. It is so simple that it is absolutely nothing. It is so simple that it is impossible to know. The mind needs some complexity, some discrimination, to discern and know. When the experience is of absolute simplicity, there is nothing for the soul to know. This simplicity appears as simplicity of behavior, attitude, and speech. One is ordinary and appreciates the ordinary, for the most ordinary is the simplicity of the absolute. The simplicity may develop to the station of the invisible sage, the highest station, the sage who appears as a normal simple human being, but whose innerness is the luminous mystery of the absolute.

Shedding the Unreal Until You’re Simplicity Itself

So the process of the Work becomes an exploration of the desires, fears, wants, gaps and holes, uncovering them one by one, so that in time you stop believing they are real or necessary. Most people live their lives believing that their desires, fears, and plans are real, and that they determine what’s supposed to happen. And when fulfillment is not forthcoming, the result is disappointment and surprise. Fulfillment, which is simply the absence of the lack of fulfillment, arises through denuding yourself, baring yourself, becoming more and more naked. It’s a matter of letting go of the things you’ve been trying to fill yourself with, of shedding the unreal, until you’re so simple that you’re simplicity itself. Your mind can’t even think about you. You’re not complicated enough to think about you, to reflect on yourself in the way you’ve been used to. The mind doesn’t know what to do about this simplicity. It can’t categorize or analyze it. People usually come to the Work feeling that they have a lot of gaps and holes it will help them fill. While the Work will not fill these gaps, it can show you that you’re trying to work on something that is not you and thinking it is, that if you see rightly, you will see that you don’t have gaps, you don’t have holes.

The Simplicity that is Unveiled in the Fourth Turning of the Teaching

But regardless of where we are in the turnings of the teaching and no matter what is happening, it is always the one and only reality that is revealing itself. Each one of us in every instant is reality revealing itself. This is the simplicity that is unveiled in the fourth turning of the teaching. We often miss this radical simplicity because of all kinds of psychological and phenomenological impediments. Most of us have to go through all manner of spiritual experiences—openings and insights, processes and developments, understandings and awakenings—before we can begin to discern this simplicity, which challenges the notion of the hierarchy of realization. Instead of degrees of progress and ultimate goals, the fourth turning discloses the wisdom of nonhierarchy and the pure simplicity of reality expressing itself however it wants. And the way to this simplicity is to recognize the centrality and the significance of true nature. Whether we recognize it
as presence or awareness or emptiness, true nature is crucial to the process of awakening, realization, enlightenment, and liberation. It is the source of all spiritual experiences, insights, and transformations. There is no other source. Nothing can happen without it. All our various experiences are nothing but true nature manifesting in one way or another. This is one of the most important wisdoms that arises in the third and fourth turnings of the wheel.

Timelessness is Completely Being the Simplicity of Presence

In the lucidity of space, a question appears, carefree and delighted: “And what is me?” Nothing recognizable by memory. I experience myself, without a feeling of self, as the simplicity of presence, which is now a simplicity of perception, a bare witnessing. There is no inner dialogue, and no commentary on what is perceived. The perceiving is without a perceiver, awareness without an observer. Without self-reflection, the simplicity of presence is merely the simplicity of witnessing. I am a witness of all in the field of vision, a witness with no inside. The witness is merely the witnessing. The only thing left from familiar experience is the location of witnessing, which seems to be determined by the location of the body. The body is relaxed and clear. The sense of the body is more of luminosity than of sensation, witnessed as part of the environment. Time does not seem to pass; it has come to a stop. When the psychic constellation that has given me the familiar sense of identifying myself ceases, the sense of the passage of time is gone. In the simplicity of presence, time does not pass, for the sense of the passage of time is simply the continuity of the feeling of the familiar identity. Simplicity of presence, when it is complete, is timelessness. Timelessness is completely being the simplicity of presence. Timelessness is not an idea, a thought in the mind. It is the fullness of the experience of presence of Being, pure and prior to thought or self-reflection.

To Be Ourselves is to be Aware of Ourselves as the Presence of Being

When viewed from the perspective of the ordinary experience of the self, the direct awareness of oneself as Being is a very mysterious category of experience. However, for the self-realized individual, it is an ordinary, common experience. In time it becomes the everyday experience of simply being ourselves. Being, here, is not a philosophical notion; it is the concrete experience and recognition of ourselves, before any mediation, conceptualization or labeling. It is the given of perception, the simplicity of being conscious of our existence. Words cannot do justice to this kind of experience; the influence of our thoughts and concepts on our experience of ourselves is so extensive that no description can convey the radical change in nature of experience without that influence. The experience of Being is not an idea we have of our experience of ourselves; neither is it a conclusion we draw from it. It is the concrete, direct and present experience of ourselves as we are being ourselves. What we are is now, a spontaneity of being, an absolute given. We perceive ourselves, then, by being ourselves, by being. We recognize ourselves by being ourselves, by being. We know ourselves by being ourselves, by being. More concretely, we recognize in the experience of self-realization that to be ourselves is to be aware of ourselves as the presence of Being. It is the direct recognition of the very beingness of our existence, the fact of our “isness.” This facticity is not a thought or idea, not a feeling or an intuition, but a very concrete and palpable thereness.

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