The human capacity to transcend is intrinsic and fundamental, freeing the self from unnecessary pain and suffering – some might say all suffering. A basic gateway to the experience of transcendence can be pointed at by using words like “acceptance” or “radical acceptance” (from mindfulness trainings); “allowing;” or “letting things be the way they are.”
Tara Brach, an insight meditation teacher, uses the word “allowing.” Eckhart Tolle suggests “accepting things the way they are.” Byron Katy prefers “loving things the way they are.” In my opinion, they are all pointing at the same way of being, which is directly experienced. Contrary to the way it might sound, none of these suggestions is based in a cognitive, thinking process. In other words, this is not a matter of self-talking oneself into “acceptance” of a life situation. That is much more the domain of ego function – where one is identified with the thinker or the “self.” Cognitive Behavioral Therapy emphasizes balanced thinking as part of healthy ego function, which could include acceptance in an adaptive way when there is little if anything that can be done in the moment about a particular life situation. When that changes, one could take action of course.
The state of surrender or “allowing” that is being talked about in this blog is more akin to the space of the room you may be sitting in now “accepting” whatever is present in the room at the moment. A shift is made so that I can say (as does Tolle) you are the awareness itself – which by the way, has no opinion – or the “space” for the mind’s contents – thoughts, feelings, sensations, and whatever other categories you care to include for mind contents. The feelings that naturally arise when this shift is made include – awe, aliveness, peace, joy, oneness… – with one or more being in the foreground in a particular moment.
Least anyone be concerned that the passive receptivity and openness to allow what is, is too passive, one actually naturally responds out of that receptivity, or “yes” to what is, and in effect does a “next right thing,” whatever that may be. Right action naturally follows, often in a spontaneous way, whether that means moving towards or away from someone, for example. Allowing is not a submission of any sort – it is a heightened state of atunement and responsivity, often accompanied by a sense of lightness and well being in which there is little or no resistance.
How, practically speaking is this capacity of “allowing” experienced and cultivated? It probably sounds to the reader much more complicated that it is. It’s a natural way of being every person has experienced in infancy, prior to language development, where there is no narrative, no naming or objectification, literally no self or other. Although, as Byron Katy has said, “the child falls into the (waking) dream with his or her first thought,” we still have this basic capacity for undifferentiated consciousness or “no thingness,” and it is operating in daily life. It’s more akin to the notion that “you are already enlightened, you just don’t know it (yet).” By the way, in case you don’t like the word enlightened, the current words in favor are “awakened” or “present.”
In the following blogs in this series, I will introduce some ways to “practice” and cultivate awakened presence.