THE GENERATIVE SOURCE OF BEING
“That we yearn for something we’re not conscious of doesn’t mean we don’t have it, and it doesn’t even mean we aren’t it in our deepest being.”
When we turn within, it’s not just as simple as “I turn within, I meditate and get a little calmer, I’m more mindful, and maybe I become less reactive. Maybe my heart is more available.” I don’t mean to devalue that because it’s a worthy thing. It even has a nobility—but not only so that we have more benevolent ideas and behave more compassionately. There is a more significant turning within. This turning within, in its deepest sense, is when we start to peer underneath our most fundamental ideas. And of course, the ideas that are most fundamental to us are our ideas about ourselves.
We each come in with our own coloring of uniqueness. That’s the beauty of existence. That’s the energy of life expressing itself in all of its uniqueness and diversity while at the same time being life. But when something in us comes alive enough, we start to look underneath those ideas and have the associated feelings, because this isn’t all ideas. Some of the feelings have incredible emotional energy behind them. That’s a different matter. We tend to think of what’s real as what we think or feel, and if what we think and feel line up and are the same thing, that’s something that’s hard to see through—for any of us.
My mother used to say that when you go to a retreat it’s like going to a “Buddha boot camp,” because traditional Zen is very disciplined. I didn’t always like spiritual boot camp, but my intuition knew that it was pretty good for me, so I kept at it until I stopped chasing what somebody promised me or what I read in a book or heard in a talk. I started responding to the unique way that I was being called to that which I cared for deeply, even though I didn’t quite know what it was—a yearning to be in touch with the unique but very real and visceral quality of what motivated my spiritual life. That’s the call.
I realized that where I didn’t have it clearly defined in my mind, I had to go to its source, and we come back to this source—the generative source of being. That’s the discovery that’s there for all of us. And since it’s innate, it’s not necessarily like we earn it or deserve it. It’s perfectly virtuous trying to be a decent human being—decent human beings are nice to be around. They’re more benign. But there’s something more intrinsic even than that.
Yearning often feels like we’re yearning for something because we don’t have it—why would we yearn for something that we have? That we yearn for something we’re not conscious of doesn’t mean we don’t have it, and it doesn’t even mean we aren’t it in our deepest being. Things aren’t always as logically simple as we imagine. It’s useful at least to hold as a possibility that our yearning actually comes from a fullness that we may not be fully conscious of, that it may be coming from that which we are seeking. Often we can be yearning for something that somewhere inside us we don’t really believe could blossom in an ordinary human being. And what I’ve seen is when someone starts to let go of that idea, everything becomes possible for that person.
One day I saw myself sliding back down the trajectory of my yearning to where it came from. I traced it, not with my mind, but with my intuition and sense and feeling, and I sort of felt my way back into that place where it came from. The surprise of all surprises was that the yearning came from the fullness of what I was looking for.
There’s an idea in Zen that I didn’t understand for quite a while, which is that the yearning for enlightenment is the first arising of enlightenment in your experience. It’s like saying your yearning for God comes from God inside of you. It’s the first evidence of the divine presence in you. It doesn’t feel like it because it’s a yearning, but our spiritual yearning or orientation is the first evidence that our deepest and truest nature is breaking through into consciousness. Of course we don’t feel that when we first feel our yearning.
“I don’t know” becomes the doorway, whether it’s “I don’t know who I am” or “I don’t know who God is.” You don’t just think it, but you start to feel it, and you don’t push against it. You don’t grasp for more knowledge. You just let yourself not know, and feel it. It’s a relief when you’re not resisting it, like Ahh, I can breathe again! Sometimes it’s the time just to rest in that place, even before our questions. Questions are relevant, but sometimes it’s the time just to pay attention to that space, that consciousness that’s there before we ever have a question, and after we have a question. Then the trajectory of the spiritual instinct itself takes us that next little step.
Excerpted from Adyashanti's London Meeting, August 18, 2019