Dialogs With My Teacher #6

Michael McAlister Blog, Dialogs Leave a Comment

Here’s another installment in a series of emails that took place between Michael and one of his senior students beginning in August of 2009. May you find the exchange interesting and enriching.

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June 9th, 2010

Student: I have not returned very often to that breakthrough experience we discussed that I had on my cushion a couple of years ago. I’m guessing that this is primarily because you told me to let go of it.

Michael: Yeah, I remember telling you that clinging to any realization will get in the way of what it’s showing you.

Student: Right. So I’ve pretty much done the whole “not clinging” to the event, but a question has been coming up about it recently, especially as it relates to some of your recent talks.

Michael: Let’s hear it.

Student: Okay, so as I unpack the even,t I realize that there was a space that was there, which was, this sounds weird, prior to the Witness. At the time I had no way of really opening to it, but as my practice has deepened, there is a clarity that keeps hammering me.

Michael: Hammering?

Student: Well, there was definitely no one doing any looking and yet, “I” was there. So it was an experience of “no looking,” but “presence” was there. There was no time. No way to measure anything. No need for any evaluation. No need or want of anything. And I knew that everyone else, and every thing else, is there too. Has always been there. Put another way, there is nothing that isn’t there and hasn’t always been there.

So my question goes like this: is thinking about it as an experience the very thing that keeps me from resting in this open space continually? Or is there no resting there while functioning as a human being? Or is this question kind of irrelevant?

Michael: I might lean into the case of irrelevance in that you’re never not in that space. Hate to break it to you, and I’m not trying to be flip, but you are in all ways in that space, right there, or right here. The deal is that all of our “ancient and twisted Karma” inhibits its felt expression. Remember that any action that comes from smallness, or selfhood, inhibits this Bigness from our sense experience. But it’s critical that we know that any sense experience isn’t anything other than mind activity that is meeting the body. This is why “blasts” of insight, or kenshos, or satoris, or Kosmic Sneezes, or whatever you want to call any of these experiences, can never be considered Truth. They are only pointers to Truth. We either follow the blast or we don’t.  What’s left after the blast has been followed is what is real…

So, my question to you is: what was left after the blast that was also apparent during and prior to the blast?

Student: Oh. Yea. I forgot. What was left after was, I brushed my teeth. Then I drank coffee, in that order. What was left is ordinary. I keep thinking that there is residue, but it’s just the opposite.

Michael: Nope. Not what happened after, but what was left after the dust settled? Stick to the question: what was equally present before, during, and after the blast? Not tooth brushing. What was there prior to the blast? What is there now?

Student: I don’t know. “I” was. But I don’t know what “I” is…mind doesn’t know what consciousness is either…is something found in the non-finding?

Michael: The answer depends entirely on the context: enlightened or unenlightened? What is left when every single thing is “gone?”

Student: The answer has to be felt in order to be true, right? And now, words keep trying to paint an answer in order to save me from feeling fear. I’m not quite sure what to do but sit here. Without an answer. What else is there to do? (that’s not rhetorical) …there’s pain embroiled in the movement to find an answer. Only the openness that pointed itself out to me is all that’s left when everything else is gone. Everything else is just a thought about it. The thoughts are the moving away from this since thoughts limit reality so that it’s managable.

Why does this feel trapped instead of free? Can the mind actually free itself? Does it make sense to say that pain is associated with movement only if attachment is involved? I think that may be what was going on.

Michael: Okay. Let it all be there. Including the fear and confusion. But, again, what is left after all of this falls away? What was present there and here as you hear or read this? Be courageous in facing this question. Let it be right next to you. Let it fill you. What’s left? Really. What’s left?

Student: Uh… just awareness. And awareness of awareness. But that feels like just cute words or really bad poetry. It’s certainly not at all what sages are always talking about. Or is it?

I was there, and I am here. But I don’t know what “I” am. And, despite the confusion, I’m still somehow functioning as if everything’s okay…having conversation with my boss about mojitos or with my sister later in the day about her birthday. I don’t know what made me forget who I am, but I just can’t quite get it – not panicking (yet), but this is not a comfortable place at all. What’s going on and what do I do?

I am filled with lots of contentment. But it’s not making sense like it used to. Except this thought: maybe mojitos is not the best partner for inquiry. What am I with no content? What am I right now, breathing and still perceiving everything, seemingly, but without the conviction that supports what I’ve always thought I was? What am I? If there’s no location there’s nothing “there.” If there’s nothing there… uh… there’s still awareness.

Michael: There is only this Awareness. We are that space. It’s the great constant. All variables arise within it. Our awareness of this awareness is consciousness; the slightest contraction or filter of Awareness.

Oops, there is an awareness now that the baby is starting to cry, again.

Still, the locale is always here. The time is always now. You are always this dance. The awakened space that has countless names and forms is what defines any sense of “here”. This is why, when I see you, I like calling it Gina.

Student: We are creation creating because we need someone or something to dance with?

Michael: We don’t need anything, but we are awakened space that can express itself more fully when it dances with a partner,  when doesn’t dine alone but shares experience. This kind of intimacy awakens through both the simplist and the grandest of creation, as well as all the stuff in the middle.

Student: Isn’t that the only way to know our Self? By playing with and ultimately as the other? Isn’t there a need of sorts there? Because without the creation, there is no awakening? By creation, do you mean the content?

This feels really weird, a little off to the left or something. There is nothing to hold on to because everything I see and experience is my self. A total and complete loss of control, because how in the hell can you contain all that? Like trying to keep track of dust particles in your home. There’s no way to stop the explosion. …there is the feeling of being integrated back into … is there a ‘claiming’ going on? “I” am not for “me,” nor am I not. I guess.

Michael: … enjoy all of this wonder. Let these questions keep arising and be, as best you can, comfortable with not knowing. Rest there. And, by all means, let’s keep talking.

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