Nondual Zen Article:


nondual title

by Kathleen Sutherland

My nondual teacher Fred Davis woke me up a few years ago. Had I been dreaming peacefully, I would have been annoyed. But as it was, I was very glad to awaken from the fitful, troubled sleep I was having. Fred said, "Wake up. You're having a nightmare!" Thank you, Fred.

I've nodded off routinely since that initial awakening, but there was a part of me (sometimes in the form of Fred) that remained awake, and was able to say, look, you're falling back into the dream, into the dross. So with help from my go-to resources - Fred, satsang, inquiry, meditation, prayer, books and YouTube talks - I'd rouse myself at least to a state of wakeful grogginess.

But recently I find I’ve developed insomnia, which is very welcome indeed. I'm staying consistently awake and fairly bright-eyed. Or, to state that more accurately, I'm remembering that I am awakeness. Kathleen has really thinned out. She seems rather superfluous these days - a hologram, an avatar. The show goes on, but there is much less suffering because my fate is not Kathleen's. Kathleen is aging, has her share of life's problems, and sooner or later will die. That's enough to frighten or depress anyone - if you are that person, that is.

But thank goodness none of us is Kathleen. And none of us is any other character we might imagine that we are. We are awakeness. Our characters will live out their lives and die, and we can help them on this journey, loving and guiding them along the way. But we no longer have to suffer as them anymore. We can relinquish all that unconscious, vicarious living. Our namesakes will continue to experience surface turbulence - drama, grief and loss - but they know that they are Me. They are perfectly safe, just playing a role.

The 13th-century Sufi Balyani said, "Whoever knows their self, knows their Lord." I know myself, and see that I am animated by awakeness, and awakeness alone. There is no separate actor or person here. There is no me. My thoughts, actions, life are Thine - or Mine. I am merely a servant, but very gladly so, for I am serving none other than Myself.

This recent insomnia has not left me worn out nor sleepy. On the contrary, I feel pleasantly energized. Perhaps my true self doesn’t need sleep, after all. Clearly I enjoy sleep sometimes, or I would not have manifested all these oh-so convincing dreams. But it seems I can also remain indefinitely awake, if, through the inevitable convergence of an infinite number of unlikely events and conditions, that is what happens to arise.

This is not to say that wakefulness does not require vigilance, at least in this location it does. But the actions I take to remain alert require much less effort and energy than what it takes to struggle against the demons and monsters in the dream. That required heroic effort! Indeed, Kathleen was a hero. But my true self is no one special, for this simple task of being what I am, with a little practice, is easy and natural.

So I gently remind myself to remain as awakeness now...and now...and now, counting “now” instead of sheep.