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The Pathless Path to Joy
A simple reminder for complicated times
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Like so many people, I’ve experienced a lot of sadness lately and disillusionment. I’ve learned over the years to embrace disillusionment because it has a lot to teach us, as I’ve written about before. It also turns my attention back toward the simple, direct truth about the source of all happiness and peace in life.
This simple truth is hidden in plain sight, and so obvious that it’s easily overlooked. Lately, I’ve had to remind myself of it throughout the day, and I want to share that reminder here with you because it holds the potential to radically shift your experience of life, work, and relationships.
I invite you to listen to it, though all the words are below.
The direct path to joy and peace is hidden in plain sight, right under our noses. In fact, to say it is a path isn’t really true. It’s a pathless path, a way of seeing.
Let me point it out.
Right here, right now, you’re alive. You exist. It’s undeniable that you are, and you are aware of this obvious fact through your own direct experience.
This awareness, your awareness, is effortless. You don’t have to try to be aware or try to know any of your experiences, ever. Before your mind even has the thought, “I see a tree,” the seeing has already happened. No thought is needed.
This is true of every experience you’ve ever had or will ever have. You know it first directly, and then the mind comes afterward with its commentary and labels in the way of thoughts. With or without thinking, though, you are aware.
Imagine a time before you had language, when you were a baby. See if you can sense what it is to experience life without language. If you get still for a moment and pay attention to your lived experience right now with your whole self, you can touch that sense. That’s what it is, a sense or a resonance beyond words. Before words. You can’t think your way to it because thoughts appear to and within your awareness.
This direct knowing—this sense of being alive, present, and aware—is your essential being. It is what you essentially are right here, right now. You can confirm this yourself.
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Your awareness has never changed. Right here, right now you’re knowing life with the same awareness with which you experienced everything five minutes ago. It is also the same awareness with which you knew experience five days ago, five years ago, and even when you were five years old.
Your awareness which illuminates all of your experience has never aged, changed, or been harmed or affected in any way by what has happened in your life.
The only thing that has ever changed is what you were aware of in any moment. Your entire life you’ve known a constant, ever-changing flow of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions. Yet, every single experience has come and gone like images appearing and disappearing on a movie screen.
Even the thoughts you had ten seconds ago, where are they now? They exist only as memories, images that once played on the movie screen. When those memories fade, does your awareness fade with them? No, you are always here, effortlessly present and aware.
Your effortless presence and awareness is before, and remains after, every experience. It makes all thought possible, but is itself not a thought… or a feeling, sensation, perception, or experience. It is the changeless movie screen, and all experience plays on it as the movie.
Here’s the thing: we miss this obvious fact. Our awareness is so intimate to us, so close to our experience, that we overlook it in the same way that most people, if asked to describe a mountain landscape, would mention everything except the very sunlight that makes it possible to see anything.
In the same way, your awareness is the light that illuminates all knowing and experiencing. That is what you essentially are—not your thoughts, feelings, or anything else that you can experience, but the awareness that knows experience.
So what? What difference does any of this make? Is this all just an esoteric mind game?
It’s a fair question.
This is actually the most practical, important, and freeing truth of all. In fact, it’s so practical that all of the world’s major religions point to this essential truth of your I am-ness, your being. So, too, does the scientific community now as we’re learning more about consciousness. They’re all simply trying to explain this all-important truth.
Why is it an all-important truth? Simply, because all of human suffering comes from identifying with our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. We take those things to be who and what we really are. As the ancient proverb goes, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
As if hypnotized, our attention gets lost in all our thoughts of not being enough, not being lovable, successful enough, good enough, or spiritual enough, or any number of other stories that are the cause of all our unhappiness, anxiety, depression, and feelings of lack.
We are in the habit of playing out an identity that isn’t real because we are mistaken about who and what we really are, which is this effortlessly aware presence.
You are already this. You cannot become this or even seek it. You don’t have to seek enlightenment or awakening, because your essential nature is already clear and awake. It is the light that illuminates your experience. You can only direct your attention toward this obvious fact… or not.
The default habit we’ve all formed since childhood is to identify with the content of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences rather than the ever-present and clear awareness that knows all of those things and makes them possible to begin with. We think we are our thoughts, but these are just unexamined assumptions.
If you bring your attention to the simple, obvious fact of your being, you’ll begin to see that the very nature of that being is peace, calm, clarity, and joy. Everything else is passing. Like the blue, empty sky isn’t harmed at all by even the harshest storm, neither is our awareness.
Where your attention goes, your life’s energy flows. Investigate where your attention is flowing. Question the assumptions you have about who and what you are.
Don’t take anyone’s word for it, even mine. Find out if what I’m saying is true. If it is, what awaits both of us right here, right now is the peace and joy we seek.
This has vast implications not only for ourselves individually, but for the world, because we share our very being. When we aren’t clear on that, we create a world from the self-centered thoughts that we aren’t safe, don’t belong, and are alone. When we are clear, however, we recognize our shared being with one another (we call that the experience of love) and our shared being with creation (we call that experience beauty).
Is there any more important endeavor or adventure than this?
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