FREE Video Event Series
Wake Up Festival Pre-Festival Intensives
August 18–20, 2014
Malidoma Patrice Somé
As I often tell my own students, I do not present my teachings as statements of truth, because trying to put the truth into words is a fool’s game. It’s the approach we often take before awakening—we conceptualize the truth and then believe the concept. So rather than teaching some sort of theology or philosophy, I present my teachings as strategies. I am offering you strategies for awakening and strategies to help you with what happens after awakening.
All of the words I use are intended as pointers. In Zen there is a saying: Don’t mistake the finger pointing to the moon for the moon itself. Even though we may hear that a hundred times, we still have a tendency to make the mistake, over and over. So while I use lots of words, set certain contexts, and use certain metaphors, I ask you to keep in mind that everything I am teaching must be awakened to. It must be lived for it to be real. Nothing I say substitutes for the real, direct experience of knowing what you truly are. You need to be willing to question everything, to stop and ask yourself, “Do I really know what I think I know, or have I just taken on the beliefs and opinions of others? What do I actually know, and what do I want to believe or imagine? What do I know for certain?”
This one question—“What do I know for certain?”— is tremendously powerful. When you look deeply into this question, it actually destroys your world. It destroys your whole sense of self, and it’s meant to. You come to see that everything you think you know about yourself, everything you think you know about the world, is based on assumptions, beliefs, and opinions—things you believe because you were taught or told that they were true. Until we start to see these false perceptions for what they really are, consciousness will be imprisoned within the dream state.
In the same way, as soon as we allow ourselves to realize, “My gosh, I know almost nothing: I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what the world is. I don’t know if this is true. I don’t know if that is true,” something within our being opens up. When we are willing to step into the unknown and its inherent insecurity, and not run back to anything for cover or for comfort—when we are willing to stand as if facing an oncoming wind and not wince—we can finally face our actual self.
Investigating the question, “What do I know for certain?” is also an invaluable tool once awakening has happened. Asking yourself this question aids in the dissolution of limitations and ideas, as well as the tendency to fixate—all of which continue after awakening.
No matter where you are on the path, then, it’s this willingness to stand up within yourself and ask this question and to be open and sincere about what you find that is the most important thing. It’s the backbone on which the entirety of your awakening and your life after awakening depends.