Longing for that State to Return

I'm just going to post the answer to a question I got today about non-dual visions that stay for a while and then fade:

I'm so glad you wrote me to ask this. What you describe is really common. It's just wonderful that you had those experiences that gave you an indisputable knowing that reality is non-dual. That can never be taken away from you.

The experience always fades, however. It might help you to know that your experience of having a "knowing" that lasts, and then fades, is the most common thing I hear about, and teachers hear about from their students. And we have gone through the same thing, as well. So the point is, what we are doing as seekers is not trying to have a non-dual experience that lasts forever. It's a common misconception that just leads to suffering, and the whole point of what we do is to end suffering, right? So let's look at this a different way. 

After having these experiences, it's necessary to come back to the common feeling of being a separate entity, and bring what you learned from your profound non-dual visions into this most common experience we all have in our daily lives. Because the truth is, after those visions of non-dual reality, your regular life will never be the same — am I right? You don't see life the same as you used to, even though you're not "in" that seeing right now. That's fine, it passes for everybody. And after it passes, the work inside you begins beneath your level of awareness of it. You can't go back now. You are steadily moving towards a more solid and more constant knowing that this ever-present peace is what you are. 

Aren't you already less reactive? More compassionate? Less apt to get stuck for days and weeks in a thought-scenario that upsets you? I remember when I could stay looped into a thought-story for weeks on end. Now, a thought is lucky if it can keep my interest for a few minutes. I didn't even do anything to bring that about, it's just a natural part of the seeker's evolution. 

The longing for a past state or experience is
suffering. I know exactly what you are talking about because I did it, too. There is a feeling of, "If only I were in that state again, everything would be perfect. Why can't I get it back? What am I doing wrong?" You aren't doing anything wrong. And the "gifted and grateful" feeling that you felt, you're right, that is a memory now. But what is not a memory is the peace that is here right now, when you pause a thought. You already know this peace, and it did not leave. It can't leave. It's what is constantly going in the background, unchanging. You, ever-present.

So I would encourage you to just not worry about any of this. If there is a longing for a past state, fine. Let that longing be. It will pass. Whatever comes up is fine. And then you will find after some time that the longing for that state no longer arises! It just stops by itself. 

Be easy on yourself. It's all good. Obviously you did diligent self-inquiry and worked hard to get to the point of those non-dual visions. That's huge! But those are stepping stones only. I honestly don't know of a single seeker/teacher who has not had the same experience: a wonderful state that lasts for some time, and then the passing of that state, and then a longing and a regret about "losing" it. You are not alone. Even your favorite teachers or YouTubers that you listen to — they've all been through this too! At some point, that longing is seen as suffering, and is let go. 

Let me know if this helped or if there is more to your question.

(Dear M, My replies to you bounced. I'm sorry I couldn't respond personally.)

Who You Are is Real

Notice right now, how steady is the stream of thoughts and sensations, emotions, opinions, beliefs, and needs that create the idea of there being a person, an entity that feels real and feels like “me.” Notice the unbroken nature of the stream of these thoughts and sensations that keep coming and coming, always creating and recreating this person and her experience.

It’s the continuous nature of this stream which makes it seem impossible that I could look from my own knowing – from my ever-present, unbroken self – and see that the person is an object, appearing in me, and cannot therefore cause me any grief. That’s the whole problem, isn’t it? The person we think we are is full of grievances, worries, and needs of all kinds. So the recognition of this “person” as merely an object appearing in the unbroken peace that I am, that’s really key. Then the life can just unfold as it will.

Small breaks in the stream of thought will begin to appear if you look for them. It only takes some persistence. Find those spaces in which
you continue to be, while the thoughts creating a person have ceased for a brief moment. And as those spaces are welcomed and enjoyed, the “person idea” becomes clearly an object, known to me. I remain, untouched.

And so it’s the incessant quality of the “person idea” thought stream that can be looked at more closely. Why does the person seem so real? Because the thought stream never stops. The unbrokenness lends a sense of reality. But as soon as the stream is interrupted a little bit here and there, it becomes very obvious that there is something
real that actually is unbroken, in between and underneath the “person thoughts.”

Look for the real – the actual unbroken knowing – and these gaps in thought will appear. Go into these gaps and be. See the person as an object, and you yourself as the unbroken knowing – present, simple, and peaceful.

All That is Really Here is I AM

There is no one real here to be upset by anything. To be agitated by anything. To want anything to change.

There is only me – awareness – and the appearance of experience which arises and passes. But when it arises, it gives the impression (as part of what arises) that the someone experiencing is a personal entity, and must take things personally, and get upset by things like injustices in the world.

I am
Experience arises in me
And changes
And passes
And still I am

Something reacts to the contents of the experience
It’s unjust! It needs to change! It’s wrong!
But “I am” is still all there is

That “one” who reacts is also arising
And changing
And passing
Thinking something different in the next moment
Forgetting all about the injustice
When something more exciting arises to capture the attention

All that is really here is “I am.”
The experience is free to be what it is
Arising from nothing and passing into nothing,
Leaving no trace.
Stay with “I am.”

Here is a wonderful video about this from my favorite YouTuber Sunny Sharma, "
Turn Your Attention Away From Mind."

A No-Planning Attitude

It is good to take a look at the thoughts that arise, and see if you have any control over them — over the content of them, or over when they arise. It becomes clear pretty quickly that you don't. It's a great meditative thing to do throughout your day, just looking at that one aspect of your experience — Do I choose my thoughts? This current thought — did I choose it? Or did it just appear, without any urging or planning of any kind?

What's the implication if you don't choose your thoughts? It's kind of wonderful. It's that the universe chooses all the thoughts. Not just yours, but everyone's. When I say "the universe," it's just a figure of speech. It's a way of attributing them to something, when really they aren't attributable to anything. They just appear or arise in awareness. They didn't exist, then they appear to exist, and then they pass, leaving no trace of their ever having existed. That's the wonderful thing about thoughts. They really don't do anything.

So the creation of the idea of a personal identity, which is what thoughts do, isn't anything that needs to be paid attention to. A person doesn't need to arise in that thought. It can just be a passing ripple in awareness. In a practical sense, it means that you don't have to plan anything, ever. You really can't, but that's harder to swallow, so we can just start with the no-planning attitude and watch as it reveals your own real identity to you.

Without a plan, what are you? And then something comes up in awareness, and action happens as a result, and identity is assumed, and the world unfolds. It all happens without plans. And yet, here it all is!

This is Perfect

Do you ever do this — when something goes sideways or isn't how you want it to be, you say, "This is perfect," or "Everything happens for a reason"? Or you say, "This other perfect thing in my life couldn't have happened without that crappy thing paving the way for it"? You know that silver-lining kind of thinking?

Why not try letting that stuff go. It's likely keeping your focus on the shifting circumstances of your life, rather than on the completeness that you already are — that awareness in which the circumstances are known.

Sure, positive thinking seems like an obviously good thing. But the habit of tying happiness to circumstances through positive thinking is a subtle pitfall.

A better way to see it would be, I don't believe anything that my thoughts are telling me about perfection. That which knows my thoughts is already perfect, and I am that.

Can I Keep My Obvious Beliefs?

If I consider only one thing important, and that is to know myself as awareness, I am told that I really need to let go of all my beliefs about life. But what about the obvious beliefs, like that my health should improve, or that humanity should be more just and humane and moral?

Even the obvious, seemingly harmless beliefs such as those have great power to capture your interest, and keep you thinking about them. You know this to be true! So be brave and let those go, too. See what happens.

When your attention goes to a thought, and away from the awareness of that thought, ask yourself, Do I need anything added to me? Is there any reason for me to pay attention to the contents of that thought if there's nothing in it that I need?