“No matter how bad our experience seems to get, even if the whole universe explodes, we know in our heart that nothing of substance has really been harmed. That which remains is unborn and indestructible. […] This boundless unicity or emptiness is uncaused. Nothing brings it about. It is always fully present.”—Joan Tollifson, Nothing to Grasp
A glimpse of open country above a stone wall on the outskirts of town is more liberation for me than an entire journey would be for someone else. Every point of view is the apex of an inverted pyramid, whose base is indeterminate.
There was a time when I was irritated by certain things that today make me smile. And one of those things, which I’m reminded of nearly every day, is the way men who are active in day-to-day life smile at poets and artists. They don’t always do it, as the intellectuals who write in newspapers suppose, with an air of superiority. Often they do it with affection. But it’s as if they were showing affection to a child, someone with no notion of life’s certainty and exactness.
This used to irritate me, because I naively assumed that this outward smile directed at dreaming and self-expression sprang from an inner conviction of superiority. In fact it’s only a reaction to something that’s different. While I once took this smile as an insult, because it seemed to imply a superior attitude, today I see it as the sign of an unconscious doubt. Just as adults often recognize in children a quick-wittedness they don’t have, so the smilers recognize in us, who are devoted to dreaming and expressing, something different that makes them suspicious, just because it’s unfamiliar. I like to think that the smartest among them sometimes detect our superiority, and then smile in a superior way to hide the fact.
But our superiority is not the kind that many dreams have imagined we have. The dreamer isn’t superior to the active man because dreaming is superior to reality. The dreamer’s superiority is due to the fact that dreaming is much more practical than living, and the dreamer gets far greater and more varied pleasure out of life than the man of action. In other and plainer words, the dreamer is the true man of action.
Life being fundamentally a mental state, and all that we do or think valid to the extent we consider it valid, the valuation depends on us. The dreamer is an issuer of banknotes, and the notes he issues circulate in the city of his mind just like real notes in the world outside. Why should I care if the currency of my soul will never be convertible to gold, when there is no gold in life’s factitious alchemy? After us all comes the deluge, but only after us all. Better and happier those who, recognizing that everything is fictitious, write the novel before someone writes it for them, and like Machiavelli, don courtly garments to write in secret.
“Terrified of being nothing more than a helpless robot cursed with self-awareness adrift in a cold, meaningless, nihilistic universe full of scary black holes, we try desperately to soothe our distress. We stroke our hand-held devices, take up meditation, do yoga, rush from one satsang to the next and read endless books about non-duality, desperately seeking a solution to the imaginary problem. And although there are brief moments of happiness and satisfaction, moments when we forget about the imaginary problem, we notice ultimately, all the solutions turn out to be disappointing. For many of us, no matter how ardently we try to believe in our latest religion, our latest guru, or our latest set of answers, there is always this niggling doubt, this persistent uncertainty, this fundamental unease.”—Joan Tollifson, Nothing to Grasp
“Suffering, is like a thunderstorm or a cloudy day. It has no owner. It doesn’t mean anything. Although suffering seems personal, it is really no more personally owned or caused than the weather.”—Joan Tollifson, Nothing to Grasp
“This was the gift of my growth during my fortieth year. This and the realization that as long as there is joy in creation there will always be new creations to discover, or to rediscover, and that a prime place to look is within and about the self. That even death, being part of life, must offer at least one moment of delight.”—Alice Walker, Living by the Word
“We typically imagine ourselves to be an enduring, independent entity with free will, a separate fragment apart form the whole, struggling to control our life and survive as this conceptual form called “me” that we think is real. We fear death and hope that “my” consciousness and my story will continue on in some kind of hopefully pleasant after-life. But this picture of our situation is as ill-conceived as the one our ancestors had not that long ago when they feared that they might fall off the edge of the earth if they sailed out into the ocean. When we truly see that there is no separate, independent, persisting form of any kind—that no actual borders or seams exist between subject and object, self and not-self, birth and death—that there is only this ever-changing, ever-present boundlessness—then there is no body and no mind apart from the totality. Just as there is no edge to the earth, there is no independent or persisting someone who is born and who eventually dies. There is only this inexplicable thorough-going flux or boundless presence, just as it is, from which nothing stands apart—vast emptiness flowering into this ever-changing appearance.”—Joan Tollifson, Nothing to Grasp
“But if we look backward with awareness for the source of any impulse, thought, desire, intention, action or reaction that occurs, no point of origination can be located or found. We have no idea what our next thought will be. Recent brain research indicates that by the time a thought such as, “I need to feed the cat,” shows up in consciousness, the action this thought appears to initiate is in fact already underway in the body. In the blink of an eye, the forms of this moment vanish into thin air, replaced instantly by an entirely new universe. When we look closely at any apparent form (a chair, a person, a thought, a feeling, a sensation), it’s obvious that none of what appears has any substantial, persisting reality. Everything is changing, dissolving into something else. It is all a shimmering, dream-like appearance, vanishing as soon as it appears.”—Joan Tollifson, Nothing to Grasp