When you bring your attention right back to present experience, to what’s actually happening right now, where you are, what do you find? Do you find that anything here is fixed, unchanging, immovable? Do you find a separate, enduring self here? Do you find anything solid here called me? Or do you find that everything here is constantly changing, moving, dancing from moment to moment?
Thoughts appear and disappear, all by themselves. Images, memories, and ideas all pop into awareness, linger for a while, and then disappear. All sorts of feelings come and go—sadness, boredom, frustration, anger, fear. Sensations happen all over the body. Sounds appear out of nowhere—the traffic outside, a television buzzing, a door slamming, your own breathing, a bird chirping. Tweet tweet!
Throughout the day, all sorts of thoughts, sensations, feelings, and sounds arise and fall in the ocean of awareness that you are. Everything that appears in awareness we could call a wave of experience. A thought is a wave. A sound is a wave. A feeling is a wave. A sensation is a wave. All of these thought waves, sound waves, feeling waves, and sensation waves appear and disappear in the wide-open space of awareness, the vast ocean that you are in your essence.
Can you recognize that your experience of life is always simply a present-moment dance of waves, all happening in the vast ocean that you are? (And for ocean, you can substitute the word consciousness or awareness or being or presence—or whatever word feels right for this reality beyond words. I use these words interchangeably throughout this book. Who you really are doesn’t mind what you call it.)
What you are, as the ocean, simply holds all of these little waves of experience as they arise and fall, as they are born and die. Thoughts, sensations, sounds, and feelings come and go in you. You are not your thoughts, not your feelings, not your ideas or judgments of yourself, not the story of your successes or failures, not any of the sensations or sounds that appear and disappear. And yet, what you are—as the wide-open space in which all thoughts, sensations, sounds, and feelings are allowed to appear and disappear—is also somehow inseparable from those thoughts, sensations, sounds, and feelings. You are not your thoughts, but at the same time all thoughts are allowed to come and go in the intimacy that you are. What you are is not sounds, and yet all sounds are allowed to appear and disappear in you.
Don’t worry if you find these words a bit confusing and paradoxical right now. Throughout the book we will be coming back to this intimacy, this inseparability, this nonduality between what you are and life itself. I will point to this from many different angles and explain it in many different ways.