Thursday, October 18, 2012

Authentic Living: Fidelity to Reality by James Waites

JAMES WAITE is a spiritual writer and teacher who lives in Berkeley, California. He has previously written for Awakening Clarity, and is the author of two books, Fading in the Light, and Real, Whole, Here and Happy!  His beautiful essay here invites us to join him in living an authentic life. Doing so is our foremost calling, a calling that is a joy to answer.


I clipped a New Yorker cartoon the other day and still glance at it now and then with delight. There’s a picture of a wide-eyed, grinning man dressed up in a superman outfit with high boots and a cape; on his mighty chest is a large capital “I”. The banner above our guy says: “Introducing IDIOTMAN!”

The caption below quips: “At the end of the day…It is what it is!
Ah, what sweet irony! I can relate to the many times I’ve subtly pointed out the obvious with friends and felt like Idiotman! It seems in our culture that only an idiot would look at things the way they really are!

The subtle humor of this is not only how it nails the typical ways we’re thoroughly conditioned from childhood to think and feel, but also the constant contradictions we face in the aware living of a life in fidelity to reality. From an aware perspective, we see the obvious absurdity of our conceptions about life and the real living of it. For to live what we are, is to know clearly what we are not. And that “reality” is not anything like we apparently sane adults imagine it to be…

In this context, four elements – space, peace, beauty and relationship – seem to form the core of what we could call a dwelling in “authentic living”. And we could roll these four into one ultimate expression – Love!  In fact, that’s all life is ever really about! It is only within this love – this residing in neither form nor formlessness, neither matter nor spirit - but both and more - that we find the sacred relationship of self-to-Self. It’s this subtle yet direct knowing of the indescribable truth of our being - this loving awareness which is our common heritage - which we’re going to explore here.

Within this inner spaciousness, the every-day rising and falling of the minds conflicted ideas about what should or should not be occurring, are seen simply (and at times, painfully) for what they are – mental activity that may or may not be relevant to the moment. And of course, if there’s to be any authentic life, it must be lived in fidelity to this moment. For it is here – and only here – in the spacious non-experience of our being, that life is actually lived.

The nature of meditation and being is to serve the moment in whatever form or action this moment serves up.  It asks of us a complete “co-operation with the inevitable” in a constantly renewed surrendering to what is happening here and now.

Within the vast spaciousness of our being we find our physical and psychological self-conscious nature. It’s an almost entirely sensual and mental activity (the six senses) that provides a sense of an identifiable, personal self that appears and disappears, rises and falls. That mind-made “me” we think we are that finds its vague self-sense in bits and pieces of interpreted, stored and fragmented memories. That “me” that invents its very own future with conditioned thoughtsall merely mental activity believed to be true.  Mind-stuff. Vaporware.

 This sense of self and other is our interior “weather” it presents a moving feast of data to awareness. Within this universal awareness (which  we ultimately  are, and which itself has no qualities) consciousness produces its own  qualities with its heart-felt and mind-labeled sense of what’s going on – that personal interpretation  through thoughts and feelings that we call our “reality”.

From this conscious, personal perspective, some moments are seen as clear and serene; others are viewed as cloudy and choppy. (Just now, weather-wise, there’s a little chop on the water…mind is rattling on about some old, deeply conditioned sense of injustice related to the current political scene. None of these ideas are ultimately believed to be real here; yet some of these same ideas - particularly about politics - are surprisingly sticky! Sticky-because-emotional, right? They’re personally very attractive to “James”, to ego. They appeal to our personal need to think we know; to the endless delusions the mind imagines in order to paper over the simplicity and serenity of our underlying, natural well-being…on and on mind rambles… ”I’m tired”…” finish this”…”he said that!”… “they better not win!”...yadda, yadda...) 

The main thing is that all of this interior verbal and emotional activity comes and goes, rises and falls, within awareness. But here’s the rub for while there’s an impersonal disengagement, there’s also a very intimate and almost personal engagement. It’s a subtle discernment of, and compassion for, the various imagined and real aches and pains, fears and concerns, that the body-mind produces. This involves a deep willingness – a constant letting go – into the breathtaking immensity and fragility of this human and divine condition in which we also find our Self. A resting in the ground of this often bittersweet human experience of compassionate living that Zen calls “the Great Heartbreak”.

Authentic living is a dance that's engaged in now lightly, now reluctantly, now elegantly, now clumsily –but we always find our feet are set firmly on the floor of a certain peace. And the nature of this certainty this peace is found in our resting in uncertainty. In truth. In truth we abandon any sense of knowing; we abide not in fiction but in fact: we never know what will happen! OMG!  It’s like riding a horse called “Life” – we loosen the reins, give it its head, and let Life find its own way to go where it wants to go. All the while, there’s a peaceful and gentle watching without attempting to control where Life is taking us. And so it goes every day, and every moment of every day –boots, saddle, to horse and away! 

In other words, aware living is like being a mirror-smooth reflecting pool, over which pass gaggles of thoughts, giggles of gladness, groans of sadness, and all the winds and whimsies of the day. In fact, we could say that life and living is all about these relationships to this passing of phenomena over the watchful eye of being.

In natural well-being, we remain active and engaged – that is, alertly aware – of all our passing states, feelings and sensations, but are not bound by them.  They’re simply seen and noted. This detached engagement can only come from a place of recognition that is not founded in belief; a place that knows we are not our mind or our body. Of course, this recognition must be more than a mental understanding; it must come from a sudden or gradual realization – a true awakening to our real nature beyond any conceptualization or feeling about it. 

All this remains theoretical and perhaps aspirational for us unless we are graced with a profound glimpse of our timeless nature. It is here, in this suddenness of reality, that we discover not our life, but life itself. And what we find is we have always been graced with this inherent contentment. That’s when our gratitude goes off the charts! We marvel that we misplaced our identity for so long, and how innocently we mistook words for reality, map for territory. 

Authentic living invites us to balance like a surfer poised on the wave-edge of now. We’re simultaneously moved by and moving with, the flow. There’s a watching of the “old world of the mind" as Aldous Huxley once called it, all the while being aware of the infinite freshness of new  appearances passing in this dynamic, living now. Indeed we live this equipoisethis recognition that all phenomena in consciousness are appearances that come and go, and that which sees this is what we are – pure awareness. We are this, this life-force, this spirit seeing the whole of itself. Or put another way, what we are and this is, is God, Buddha, Love, Infinity, and another current favorite word these days –Idiotman!
It's a kind of freedom that is truly all-encompassing and all forgiving; we are free to fumble, to miss a step in this dance of appearances. To not be bound to any idea or ideal of perfection. Or Enlightenment. Or Self and Other.

Of course, it’s that sense of being a separate me and you, that starts the conflict that produces our suffering. And it is this suffering that alerts us to the various ways we resist reality as it presents itself in the moment. So we come to truly value not only our sublime and limitless nature of self but also our limited and conditioned human capacity to do “dumb” things and suffer for them. And we come to embrace our suffering with compassion – not only for others, but also, for our self.  And to recognize the value of this friction in the flow, as an early warning device that will reliably tell us bodily when we're becoming too attached to personal desires and beliefs (especially “Spiritual” beliefs) that in reality, do not exist. In fact, we can pretty much trust our body to tell us when we’re resisting what is.  (Here comes a daily, dawning observation: my body, it seems, is directly connected to reality! An unrelenting reality that constantly challenges the conditioned ego/mind to let go of its imaginings…to ease off on the resistance; to ”let come what comes and let go what goes”)

We come to understand not so much the meaning of the word “trust” as the real, active and engaged nature of trusting. It’s an effortless trusting that involves an act of willingness; a surrendered leaning into whatever dynamic presents itself in this streaming nowness.

We remain here. We remain in the awareness of our natural well-Being; in the spacious beauty of a profoundly peaceful relationship of self; in the recognition of Oneness right here in the middle of this divine and human paradox.

We rest in a certain knowing that… it is what it is – love.


“Every heart to love will come, but like a refugee”
                                                           Leonard Cohen

IT'S A GOOD THING THAT THOUGHT HAS ALMOST NOTHING TO DO WITH REALITY.  Not that thought isn't a part of reality – a running commentary based on our conditioned memory – it's just that thought is not nearly the whole of it. In living an authentic life, we move – we lean –into the way life is moving in any given moment. That is, we lean into love. We lean into life. For it is only in living a life freed from our belief in ideas about it, freed from the freighting of our programmed memory and its coloring of our present experience, that we come into direct contact with the vital and alive nature of authentic living.

The center of our being
The wellspring of authentic living must come from real peace; from a contented place. This place, this moment, is free of all our stored beliefs the psychological memory of “me”. It is free of all wanting anything to be other than exactly what it is here and now. There is a seeing and a releasing of all wanting, of all desiring. This comes with the profound recognition that ego – the mind’s portrait of being a Jack or a Jane is simply and clearly seen as a kind of conjurers trick – a creation of imagination.


Living in the center of the world
In the middle of the constant bump and grind of a “personal” life generated by our conflicted mind-world, we rest in the sweet spot of this eternal moment. We get to let go of what is, after all, just another story of “me” and “you”. And we let all things happen according to their nature. We go about our life and our day alertly compassionate. That is, we live passively engaged with all the senses (including the mind which serves well as a sixth sense) in an intimacy with whatever this moment presents. We dwell in a love that is open and opening. A love filled with, as Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “the great sadness of compassion". This compassion (which comes from the Latin “to suffer with") does not deny or distort with panaceas of hoping and coping; it deals directly, lovingly, with the underlying causes of our apparent suffering. This engagement is simultaneously not personal and yet deeply intimate.

An intimacy with all things
The relationship of the moment is entered into wholly and without conditions. We step into what is – into life living itself, free from the belief in personal ideas and ideals which produce our conflicted experience of it. We’re no longer blinded by our precious conception of self and its preservation; we see globally that there is, in reality, no me and no other. It's a simple perception that, in truth, there is “nothing wrong" with any manifestation of spirit – with the innate perfection of this moment. Of course, this perfection includes apparent imperfection – that’s just the mind's idea that something could be or should be other than it is. In fact, perfection is just an idea – a still-born concept about reality.

The teaching of the moment
In aware living, we discover not only what it means to be fully human but also what it means to be. To be requires us to be free from the ego mind, free from choice, free from any sense of a self that is choosing. We are then open to this thoughtless moment. As Jean Klein points out, we “live in the perceived, not in the conceived. Only the perception is right. The conception is memory."

Living in perception – free of perfection – subtly combines time and space as we humans experience it, with the timeless and spaceless divine nature of our being. We relinquish all doing and simply go along for the ride. This living involves a certain uncertainty; we live without knowing, without a plan, without an effort to shape any outcome. And we trust.

Trusting life
It's useful to remember that life has always been right in whatever it produces. And that all our apparent misfortune has brought us to the recognition of our natural good fortune. That, with or without trust, life has given us exactly what we needed. When we deeply perceive that whatever life presents in the moment is reality, we begin to live heaven on earth. We rest in accepting, in a being that has no investment in becoming. All action or non-action flows from this source of who we are and what this is. It is the action of truth. The action of trust. We recognize the conditioned nature of all our seeking, of all our craving, of all our contracting around cultural, social and psychological descriptions of how life should be. And we expand way, way beyond our limited sense of self. We embrace not a fantasy depiction of reality, but reality itself. It is this recognition that brings us unending joy.

Peace in our time
The nature of joy and delight is expansive. We are in turn embraced and embracing. We are loved and loving. We are love. And the nature of this love is infinite life. That is to say, we live in the midst of uncertainty, of confusion, of chaos, with a certain knowing. And while this knowing cannot ever be described or measured or even intellectually or sensually known, it remains nonetheless, recognized as our natural well-being. And our personal life dries up – we become a hallow reed –an instrument played by life –by spirit, God, Buddha, Nature, Love. And we dance that dance whatever it may be. We embrace the only happiness there ever is, and we allow life as it happens.


The grace of suffering
Of course, we’re occasionally persuaded by deeply held opinions (beliefs) in the mind, to step into the ring fighting! That too, is how life teaches us to be a spectator! In a way, this transformation of suffering is what gives life its living edge. Indeed, living in fidelity with reality usually happens only through the grace of suffering! This force or energy is a built-in reminder; it presents its conflicted nature to our awareness in the moment, we “suffer” it, and simultaneously, abandon it. This action is not a reaction; it comes from an abiding, full-spectrum awareness of the generally harmonious nature of spirit, including its powerfully disharmonious aspects. And we live with a constant awareness of the winds of our mind making waves on the surface of our being.

Taking a ring-side seat
We abandon our need to “understand" anything beyond this moment. And we discover how freeing it is to not have an opinion – to not need an opinion. We step out of the ring, out of the fight. We experience a gentle ambient peace as we come to see and return to our contented nature. And we realize that we have always been only here, only now, only love. The chattering “mental-me" gradually dies from this perceived disinterest in, and irrelevance of, this labeled languaging of reality. It’s a kind of “dying before you die” and its gravestone bears the eulogy: “Quote. Close quote.” We rest infinitely in the wordless silence of being.

The wonder of it all!
Authentic living, or Natural Well-Being, involves a subtle and sensitive dwelling in the stillness of this streaming moment – a trusting in our deepest resonate knowing – love! And constant wonder! Everything whispers about itself, tells us and shows us itself, and in this real relationship we find our self in everything. We find sufficiency in a gentle shuffle, an urgent word, a pressed hand… a delight in being as we explore the aliveness of life as it happens. And simple astonishment! We find our self pausing and gazing at the smallest bits of creation: crumpled pieces of paper in the gutter present all the majesty of a starry night sky. Each step we take is a moving meditation on the miraculous as we constantly touch experience with awareness.

Spirit touches, and is touched, by its Self.


James Waite's website:

Fading in the Light on Amazon, print or e-book:

Free e-book, Real, Whole, Here and Happy!:

James on Non-Duality America:

On non-duality magazine:

With Jerry Katz on Nonduality Street (audio interview):

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