First Things First

“First things first, but not necessarily in that order.” – Doctor Who

Recognize first your true nature, which is the true nature of everything, and then all else in life will naturally fall into place.

No matter how healthy, successful or loved we may be, most of us live with an underlying sense of existential despair. We know that things are always changing, including us, and not necessarily in the way we want them to. We see that all things in life are transitory and impermanent. If you don’t see this, just honestly pay attention for a few minutes. Notice how effortlessly everything is always changing.

If we are loved or love someone, we can not help but be aware that both of us will eventually die, usually one of us before the other.  Or we may be suffering from an illness or addiction. No matter how well our life seems to be going, we may not feel well, may be in pain, or have an on-going craving that must be fulfilled even though it is ruining our life. Life often seems full of problems and difficulties and completely out of our control.

And so it is natural to seek happiness and fulfillment, but we are looking in all the wrong places. No matter how much we are able to control, manipulate and dominate the circumstances of our lives, everything that appears, continues to shift, change and disappear, including you. As I have said many times, no matter how much we get of what we don’t need, it will never be enough.

And that is a clue!  Someone once said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven…..”

For the sake of this discussion, we’ll talk about two domains of Being which are actually two expressions of  the same thing, so to speak. One is Immanent (Shakti) and  is perceivable by our senses and nervous system. We can perceive this domain and thus we can think about it. To some extent it appears that we can manipulate and control it. This immanent domain is the world we live in. Consciousness is this domain. Consciousness  manifests it, pervades it, sustains it and is it.  All there is, is Consciousness. Another clue.

In the past I have often referred to this domain as the dream realm, but this seems to confuse people as it all seems so REAL even though it is always shifting and changing!  From now on I’ll refer to this domain as the Play of Consciousness as that is exactly what it is. We tend to put all of our eggs into this basket of life living itself, even though we all know it has a great big hole right in the middle of it. We may call this hole death, emptiness, meaningless, stillness, nothingness, or the void.

We spend our entire life trying to avoid this void. As humans we have made up all sorts of stories, myths, beliefs, religions, superstitions, philosophies, psychologies, and fantasies to avoid the void. And this is a mistake. Because ultimately it doesn’t work. No matter how much we get of what we don’t need, it will never be enough.

The other domain of our being is silent, still, empty, non-existing. It is No Thing. It is the Absolute Transcendent (Shiva). Since it has no attributes or qualities, it is imperceivable and inconceivable by our mind. For the mind, this seems like a great idea because then it doesn’t have to think or worry about it. But it does anyway. Constantly. Because the void is here, always here, waiting. It is always saying, “Pay me now or pay me later.” The mind can believe what ever it wants, but it knows one little slip and it is over! This is the existential despair that is an underlying theme of our lives. This is the source of our constant fear and anxiety.

This transcendent domain is your true nature. It is unborn, prior to everything and anything, including what you think and believe you are. It is imperceivable and inconceivable. We can’t know it. We are it!

The great Zen master Bankei said, “All things are perfectly resolved in the Unborn!” 

This happens to be true.

In the Play of Consciousness, there are so many methods, techniques, practices, ideas, philosophies, and attitudes that without a doubt greatly enhance the quality of our lives. I highly recommend them, especially the ones that actually work. I have spent my entire life practicing many of them and teaching them to others. They have tremendous value.

But none of them will give you the peace that passeth all understanding. For that you have to stop avoiding the void. How do you do that? You can’t and you don’t. And probably won’t.  This is not in the domain of our doing. This is in the domain of……………???? Grace???   It is inexpressible. Anything said about it is a lie.

We have to see that all methods, techniques, practices, ideas, philosophies, and attitudes can be used to avoid the void, and usually are. Until we have fully realized our unborn nature, we will never be free or at peace. When we have realized our true nature, our experience of ourselves and life radically shifts. We no longer demand that life makes us happy. Instead, we bring love, happiness, wisdom and fulfillment into the play of Consciousness. We use whatever methods or techniques we want to enhance the quality of our life, as an expression of our being. We use them skillfully and effectively because we know their true nature and do not expect them to do what they can’t do.

The truth of our being is always already present. It is what we always already are. Unborn and deathless. But we are not some “thing.” We can’t wrap our minds around the truth of our being nor create a religion or philosophy about it because it does not exist. You can’t own it or sell it. You are It.

To realize our true nature, the best method is no method. This is not my idea as this truth has been pointed to by Zen, Dzogchen, Anupaya of Non-dual Tantra and by the great Christian mystics Meister Eckhart and Anthony de Mello.

At The Awakened Heart Center our method of no method is to simply rest as effortless, choice-less, silent awareness. To be as you always already are. Most people report that they can’t do this. They are correct. You can’t do this! It is always already happening. Simply notice what everything appears and disappears within your awareness.

“You don’t have to do anything to not exist. You already don’t exist” – Peter Ralston

Here in lies the peace that passeth all understanding. Your mind is probably already freaking out and making something out of this that it is not. Your mind is a fear-based, self-perpetuating survival mechanism. It can’t handle the truth! It will never be at peace. Relax! You are not your mind. Your mind does not exist unless you think it does.

The immanent and transcendent are two natural expressions of your one being. They are what you are. Form (Shakti) is none other than Emptiness (Shiva) . Emptiness is none other than Form. Not two.

Once you have recognized your unborn, deathless, transcendent nature, you are now absolutely free to live life as the wonderful gift and opportunity life is. You relax into your life as it wants to be lived. You realize there is only now and now you are free to live fully and completely. 

“If you miss this moment, you miss your life.” – Zen Master John Daido Loori

Your unborn nature is unconditional love. Unconditional means no conditions, empty of all conditions, empty, void. Get it?  Because it is empty, it is the all inclusive source of all and everything. Everything appears and disappears within you. You are the Heart (Hridaya) of all being.  Your unborn nature is unconditional love and This love is expressed as the play of Consciousness.

You are free to make of this whatever you will! It doesn’t matter.