Practice

I just read your Reflection No.7, on practice… I had read and met Douglas a long time ago. I enjoyed the workshops, but forgot this very important element: practice. So after a while, the teaching of Douglas became one of the many teachings that interested me, but that ended up in the bookshelf. Until recently, I rediscovered the experiments, and I now realize how important practice is.
 
So I now do the experiments at certain fixed moments, but there are also moments in daily life, esp. during work, that are suited for practice. And, strangely enough, these moments are when I’m getting bored… For example, when I walk from the railway station to the place where I work, I have to follow a long, rather dull street, without shops or trees or much else to see but houses. This is, however, an excellent opportunity to do the ‘(non-)movement experiment’ (who or what is moving?). Another opportunity is during our coffee break. I’m an administrative employee at a university, and I work at a centre where all members, except me, have had the same training; they’re all specialized in theories that have to do with adult education etc…. A branch of science which, to put it mildly, doesn’t interest me at all. So, unavoidably, during the coffee breaks my colleagues often (or even most of the time) discuss these topics. This used to irritate and bore me (of course, I never told them), but now I use it as an opportunity to practise (look for the One without a head…). So in this way, the coffee break becomes a very effective meditation break! And I do the same at other ‘boring’ moments (sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, queuing up in the supermarket etc… Kind regards, Marc.
 

I've followed the postings
on this list for about two weeks and feel daunted by the intricacies of some of the postings, the products of people firmly grounded in the experience no doubt, but I am all at sea. G.C.

Don't feel daunted by yourself. I discovered headlessness several years ago, and despite helpful personal meetings with two very headless people, and reading all of Harding's books I could get my hands on, and subscribing to the journal, I still find myself slipping in and out and sometimes forgetting about it for weeks at a time.

From my own experience, I think it's best to take it easy -- don't try too hard, be patient, try to keep the frustration in check. When it works, it's a light, easy feeling; in one sense nothing changes, but somehow everything seems a little more real. When it doesn't work, it doesn't work, and banging your no-head against the no-wall can actually be painful.

Like Harding said in one of his books.... hang around the shallow end of the pool for as long as you need. Water's still wet, no matter how deep you go. T.D.

It is amazing how the Seeing is stabilizing Itself. It is impossible not to "See". Life goes on but it is smoother and friendlier. Birgit.

Daily practice and actual experience is everything for me. It is very easy to slip back into old habits. I live in war-torn Jerusalem and attended Douglas's May weekend workshop in Israel. It is difficult to realise how simple it is - that is the difficulty. But there is always the next moment to experiment in, so one acquires training in becoming an evergreen optimist. Previously dabbled in Gurdjieff and Yoga and Douglas has illuminated them both for me! A. Israel.

It is very good for me to know that many more people are (on their Way to) recognizing their own Headlessness. In my case, I am learning to prolong this 'state' more and more. One thing I know already: seeing who I really am touches my heart so deeply, that nothing makes me more happy than that. This is a great motivation for me to stay alert, although I seem to fall back into the habitual, fictional third-person state quite easily. I hope you and your friends can be a help for me to see my real face forever. H.E.

I was first introduced to "headlessness" through Douglas Harding's writings, and then the website. Most of the experiments I've done myself, though I have attempted to introduce some others to them.

I think the one that made it click for me was the Handling Problems experiment contained in David Lang's article on the website. After that it was kind of like water skiing or riding a bike, it always comes back. The key thing for me now is to incorporate this new (old?) way of Seeing into my daily life. I do this by reading a lot of Douglas' writings, doing the experiments regularly, and trying to remember to look both ways as much as possible. Quite exciting to have this new perspective at 51. B.M. USA.

As I mentioned before, the Handling Problems article and experiment by David Lang is the one that did it to me. It was like removing blinders from where I thought I had a head, and suddenly all the other experiments started "working" too. Unfortunately, I think I tried too hard to understand this new way of Seeing. I got most of Douglas' books and attempted to absorb them, even the out of print ones. However I forgot to practice Seeing, and somewhat forgot it. Headlessness became more or less just another spiritual path I tried to understand rather than live.

It occurred to me though that this Seeing we share is a way of Being, and not something built on doctrine or rules or the like. I came back to it almost naturally. Since I really started living from this Center, it is much more natural, spontaneous, and present. It is like arriving without ever having gone anywhere. And suddenly much of what I've read is now seen more as an affirmation of this Seeing rather than anything else. B.M. USA.

The only thing I can do is see when it occurs to me to see. I can't force it. The more I look, the more I remember to look. So when it comes to me to look, I do. I don't just ignore the impulse and go on with what I'm doing. That's the only way I know to keep it going or rev it up. Besides, I'm not sure I want to go full bore with it all the time. It's always here, never lost, when I want it. I know it's never inappropriate, but I don't think it's a good idea to think that it should be a 100% practice in time. We have to function in time, and though the timeless never gets in the way, it can go to the background with no harm to anyone. So far it has never failed to come back to awareness. Once you see it, it's yours. It's you. Trust it to come when it's needed. It's relaxing because it's the place without tension. I don't want to feel guilty if it fails to come up for a time. It's still here. M.S. UK.

Douglas' experiments and workshops undoubtedly provide a route one into Clarity. Remaining at Centre is exceedingly hard because the very process of consciously "being Mindful" can undermine the experience of actually being Mindful i.e. Clear, Home, At Source, or whatever.

So, although I can usually always "get Home", perhaps with the aid of a pointing finger, actually 'Living At Home' seems to occur more spontaneously than consciously. This is a huge paradox. My concern with headlessness lies not with the Experience, but with the objectifying, categorising, labelling of that experience. If my psychological self consciously wills "being headless", this has the same inherent dangers of any other 'system' or , dare I say it, religion. Systems reduce and constrain; they frame and cloak; produce in-groups and out-groups, Seers and non-seers, saints and sinners. Headlessness can become a solution, an answer and end - yet every living soul who experiences being "burst wide open" feels so Awake because they are instantly liberated from solutions, answers and ends. They simply Are. How many seekers become entangled and choked by the very chains and ties that they had sought to free themselves from? I have been guilty of using headlessness as a panacea and as a filter through which to construe the ever-changing world before me. Putting up filters puts me in the same realm as any other born again *ist, though without any accompanying zealotry, I hope.

So, the experience of "Home" or "Headlessness" can only ever be for me a beginning - as soon as I tell myself otherwise, I'm conning myself very big time indeed. The very nature of delusion is that you do not know you are in it! I suspect this is why some of the Zen Masters advised that we "chop wood and eat rice", rather than get involved in anything more elaborate! For me, then, in the middle of a staff meeting, or some other functional necessity, I try to keep pointing, keep reminding myself that I am nothing without what is on offer before me and try to use that as an energy that loves, nurtures and seeks harmony. But without forcing it!

Having said all of that, I think it would be a great idea to have mirror nail polish that you could put on your thumbnail: every time you see your hands and your funny little face looking back at you, it would instantly remind you of Where You Are and where you are not. Keep the e-messages flowing, I particularly love people's accounts of their experiences. M.S. UK.

The best way for me is to practice 2-way awareness whenever I remember to do so. I often do it while driving. I think that it is very helpful to make time to do nothing else but 2-way seeing, i.e. in a meditation session. The reason for this is that at most other times I am inside a narrative - e.g. I am driving in order to go somewhere. Whereas in taking time out to do nothing but 2-way seeing, one is consciously embracing and enjoying one's emptiness - so long as one does it innocently - i.e. not trying to attain something, because then one has become re-emeshed inside a narrative. But I am no expert on these things and my self-discipline is virtually non existent. I know that taking a bath is much more enjoyable and healing than taking a shower, but I always take the shower. E. Japan.

I find myself regularly doing the imaginary pointing finger business as a sort of remembering the two-way seeing, remembering to look ‘back’ as well as ‘out’. That is an ongoing habit and pops up - on and off - in the middle of everyday doings. As far as a more orthodox meditation practice is concerned I don't have one but when I'm feeling particularly battered and bludgeoned by life into my third personhood I find the closed eye experiment particularly effective in coming to. (Do people still say 'coming to'? I just used it unconsciously, it means regaining consciousness, waking up.) A.M. Australia.

Just about anything can be an exercise. Like walking, the world moves through you, and you turn the earth with your feet. Like talking, where does the sound appear from? Where does it go?

Like looking at a tree, is there anything here except the tree? The mysterious "no thing" Here, at that moment, does it have any face except the tree? If there is another person, are you face to face? Or face to Space? C.M. Australia.

I "meditate" for about an hour every morning. I greatly enjoy it - I get a huge exhilaration from it. I sit. I feel my breath coming and going, in and out of nothing. I feel my spine rooted to the center of the earth. I hear the sounds - someone breathing (or snoring!) in the meditation hall, an early truck out on the highway, or the birds - sound with no center. Just sound, without what they call "hindrances". S.D. USA.

Hi S: I found your question on a regular practice of meditation to be a particularly good one, and have enjoyed the responses it has garnered. In his article, "The Results of Seeing Who You Really Are" Douglas states that Seeing doesn't preclude and need not interfere with other kinds of meditation. It only rules out meditation which assumes the meditator isn't already at Home.

Before discovering Headlessness, I meditated in the tradition of John Main for over 10 years. This involves simply sitting with my eyes closed and repeating a mantra for 20-30 minutes twice a day. While at first I was using this to get somewhere, I grew just to enjoy these periods of pure Presence. I have continued with this practice, and it seems to fit in quite well with the other experiments the Headless Way encourages. Thomas Merton, who has influenced me greatly, describes meditation as not thinking about anything, but instead as a direct seeking of the Face of the Invisible which cannot be found unless we become lost in Him (Her) who is Invisible. For me at least, this is a practice which helps to maintain 1st-personhood. B.M. USA.

One of the remarkable things about Headlessness is the number of experiments available for Seeing. Last year the wristwatch experiment didn't do anything for me, then suddenly this year it has become a tremendous help for dealing with time stress. It reminds me of the Now that doesn't pass away, and that in this Eternity we share there is no time. It especially helps when waiting on someone or for something to happen. Even when standing in a checkout line, though I usually manage to also scratch myself when I bring the watch up close. Don't want to look too conspicuous!

Good thing we don't carry big alarm clocks around with us. I can just picture us Headless ones bonging ourselves with them. That would take care of time! B.M. USA.

I just wanted to share with you this extraordinary experience. As I started to attend yoga classes regularly (twice a day) to counteract involvement with a full-time job , a remarkable thing happened. The body almost automatically shifts into states of profound stillness. A window opens from within and I am literally being pulled into Seeing.

These states became very spontaneous and intense. Last night this transparent vast Presence loomed over from within as an unmistakable fact. It was containing my body and the entire room within. The experience was so stunning that all thoughts scattered away. The reality of this non-material monstrously vast Density at the very core of my being made me speechless.

No wonder some people after ultimate enlightenment, fell into silence, or mouna. Thoughts and involvements flee when their master wakes up, one-eyed, self-luminous. E.K. USA.

Hello E., Thanks for your message. As I read your message I was saying Yes! Yes! Yes! The vast transparency looming over as an unmistakable fact....containing it all... There are moments when seeing strikes one so. One can then speak of intense revelation, so stunningly obvious, true, and vast.

There may be no degrees of seeing, or, put in another way, infinite space (I happen to like the word space) may not have degrees of width, depth or transparency; however, there is certainly, at different points, more or less unhooking, unhinging, of the center (for me, at any rate), and that is why I very much like to speak about degrees of clarity..... Warm regards, E.C. USA.

Behind me, my co-workers are discussing the subject of electronic loan trading. What matters is not the content of their conversation but the context. What the phrase "secondary loan syndication" is made out of, and the absolute location of our office - the relative location I know is in New York, but where is New York? New York is on planet Earth, and where is planet Earth - in the Solar System, and our Solar System is a tiny sparkle in the vast universe. So my office with its loan trades, desks, meetings and computers is floating weightlessly inside the cosmic body of God. And who is that God inside of which my office floats and I walk around and have a personality?

"Turn around."

I turn around my back and see no one.

"Turn your attention around."

Where?

"Back, from where it arises".

I can't.

"Look, you do not have a head!"

So what is that on my shoulders?

"Planet Earth".

Who are you?

"Who do you think I am?"

Me.

"So why do you ask?"

Because I forget.

"Tattoo this on your forehead so you remember".

I will get laid off from work.

"Then look in front of yourself, what do you see?"

Computer screen, my hands typing, these words appearing...

"This is content, what is the context?"

You.

"I announce war to all pronouns that separate Me from Me, all pronouns other than "I". So, I AM not a "you" to you."

Who are you?

"I am I. Love me."

E.K. USA.

It seems that all I can do is rest 'here' in happy ignorance and chat to travellers as they pass by and non-travellers as the opportunity arises. Kindest wishes to all. A.M. Australia.

Hi. My name is S. I work as a librarian at a community college in West Virginia. I first encountered Douglas' work many years ago, through a friend's copy of 'On Having No Head'. I wasn't especially 'caught' by it then. About 5 or 6 years ago I read it again and this time it became very important to me. I experienced what Douglas described and since then I have been trying to increase the amount of time that I spend Seeing (does that make sense?) and also explore the meaning of the experience, the thoughts and emotions that trail in its wake. I've had interest and some degree of experience with Zen, Taoism, and Krishnamurti (the usual suspects for Eastern-oriented people with a luke-warm Jewish backgrounds like myself.) I still have an interest in those paths but now they seem to me like offshoots of Seeing. S.J. USA.

It's one thing to have an apprehension of our Void nature, but it takes a special effort (usually) to embody that in ordinary activities. I find plenty of fear to work with here.

In the Châ'an and Zen traditions students usually have years of maturing the experience, and this is what I read in Douglas' descriptions of the years following his Himalaya experience. There is a long process of moving from the 'yahoo' phase to the 'chop wood, carry water' phase. My Zen teacher had this to say (effectively): 'O.K. That's one eye open, what about the other one. Embody the Void. Become intimate with it.'

Also, this work of 'maturing' is really deepening and discovering the depths of ourselves. I used to have the notion that 'enlightenment' meant that all your troubles would be over forever. Now, if I can stick my neck out a little here, I'd say it means relating to all your troubles in an enlightened way, being in intimacy with them; that's what I hear Douglas' works saying, though it is possible to use 'Seeing' to distance oneself from them. I did for a long time.

Douglas points out in On Having No Head that the Heart Sutra says: No eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, nor mind. But that is from the point of view of Emptiness in itself. It also says emptiness is exactly form: This eye, this ear, this nose, this tongue, this body and this mind. (That last 'door' is the trickiest!) C.M. Australia.

A.  In many ways we have a similar 'spiritual' background. And the question you raise about the egocentric view still persisting after so many beheadings, is important. Many times Krishnamurti was asked why in his presence there was clarity, but this quickly disappeared in the hurly-burly of life. His response was that the clarity was not stabilised. The intellect takes over and 'thinks' about being clear which is really non-clarity. Douglas has spoken about the need to stabilise the seeing. I feel that unwittingly we can be involved in thinking about the seeing and not the seeing itself. K.P. South Africa

I remember reading somewhere a piece about how people were describing their experience after having attended a summer gathering. How clear they felt, how at ease, and how easy it was just to be.

Well, after my first gathering, that's just how I felt. But then as time passes and a few bits of life come up for me, I find I don't feel so clear, and I ask myself what happened? Was it just a dream; just a nice holiday in France with some lovely people? Then eventually I get around to the practice of seeing and not just thinking about it. I take up Douglas' suggested daily practice in Head Off Stress. I read a chapter that goes with whatever that particular day's practice is. Reading I find easy. Thinking about what it means is easyish. Doing the experiments is the hard part… just doing them. When I force myself to actually perform them then I come home. I come here, where I am.

And then off I go to work, in a lovely open and expansive mood. But I have to ask myself, how long in reality does this last? 10 minutes... 30 minutes?... Maybe only as long as it takes to get on the road to work and for someone to pull out in front of ME! Who's driving the car then, I ask myself? What I'm finding is that it's not enough to practice for just a few minutes a day, not if I'm serious about it, and if I really want to live from 'here' 24 hours a day. I think for me, to really bring seeing into my life I have to wake up to the fact that for a lot of the time I don't want to be awake. And then I have to bring that to my awareness, to pay attention and to ask myself 'Who's doing this job now?' Am I doing it from 'here' or is Denny doing it? And then I need to remind myself to wake up and to bring myself home to where I am. Now that might mean sitting myself down, somewhere quiet so that I can focus, or it might be that I just have to force myself to look 'here'. I'm finding that for me, it's one thing to see who I am in my practice. But it's an entirely different and much harder thing to 'BE who I am'. To live from here in all I do. To actually bring this to my conscious life and to live from it.

So I guess what I'm saying is, don't let's limit ourselves to a set time for practice and then trick ourselves into believing that's it's done for the day, because it really doesn't work like that. As George said at the gathering, 'It's not over till it's over folks!' D.P. UK

Thanks for your comments and sharing . Alright, since you ask about my Zen experience:

By the time I went to the second Zen place (I've belonged to two), I had already encountered 'On Having No Head'. I understood the point immediately when I read about it and thought 'wow', this is it! However, I couldn't go too far with it: things clouded up for me. Later, when my father died, I decided to plunge in with the 'great work of life and death' as one teacher of mine called it (maybe it is some sage's expression) and so I joined a zendo. From the beginning I found the atmosphere very rigid, the Roshi very severe. While I sat at this place it didn't occur to me to apply the headless insight, or if it did, nothing came of it. I followed my exhalation while focused on the hara (a spot about two inches below the navel), or worked on a koan. At some point I started working on the koan 'Mu' and although I know one is not supposed to force it, I unwittingly did and messed up my breathing and started having trouble sitting. This, compounded by the Roshi's severity, who sat behind our backs ready to lash out if we moved (or so I believed), got me into a sitting panic situation and I had to quit. Even sitting at home brought back very unpleasant sensations. I felt demoralized thinking that there was no hope of understanding anything since I couldn't sit. I felt as if I were spiritually handicapped. So for a while I worked intensely with 'self-remembering' (Gurdieff's main practice, where you don't have to sit) and gradually started to take up again 'the headless way', deciding to give it another try. This time, fortunately, it grew.

Recently, however, after practicing 'headlessness' for a while, I have felt the need to do something a little more formal, more focused (albeit in small quantitites) to further the practice, and so I've wondered what it would be like to do a little headless zazen. That is, to sit in the zazen posture, and just contemplate the headless whole. (Yes, I've sat headless on the train, or while waiting at an office, but formal sitting feels more 'to the point' and like a different activity). I have found, in the short periods I've tried, that while I sit 'headlessly', everything, as they say somewhere in the Zen literature, does zazen with me, and that there is no fighting, no struggling, and that everything is fine the way it is. I don't know what would happen if I had to sit for longer period, ah! but that doesn't matter. E.C. USA.

I just find Seeing gradually grows and grows, so to speak. The more I am awake to it, the more it is awake in me. I have found going to workshops helpful - more 'practice time' so to speak, and inspiring. Being with friends who share Seeing is inspiring. Other things remind me of it too - almost everything in the end. I suppose it's the question: How do you remember to remember? How do you remember to wake up in the morning? It just happens, or you put the alarm on, or you ask someone to wake you, or there is an unexpected loud noise! Sometimes I just find myself 'seeing', out of the blue. Sometimes I fall down, metaphorically, and bruise myself, and this awakens me to who I am! And sometimes the fact that I really do want to be awake more of the time (I know it's timeless!), the desire deep down, is the inbuilt mysterious momentum that awakens me. R.L. UK

I really think that I was born with insight into my True Nature. It became distorted and overlayed with interpretations and was the cause of a lot of discomfort as I became an adult, but the awareness of the huge dissonance between the 'sense' I tried to make of myself (which was all change and contradictions) and my deep conviction that 'I am perfect and complete' drove me on. Things were terribly difficult for a while because there seemed no avenue of expression for that Inner Self. Attending a workshop of Douglas' in 1974 was a watershed. I then spent a whole weekend sharing this looking in, which started an avalanche of intellectual activity, and, much more slowly, an opening of emotional activity; both are still going on. I cannot conceive just 'looking in', 'it' can't be conceived. So this plain looking was unlooked for. As I go on, it seems that everything is grist to the mill as far as reactivating it goes. There are some pleasures (such as riding my motorcycle or driving a car) which seem regularly to elicit the necessary attention, and the whole of my 'personal' life (which is mostly 'not OK') works in the other direction in that I can't afford not to see Whose 'personal' life it is. The reactivation is always available if I want it. B.G. UK

I've got into a reasonably regular routine whereby I remember to think 'headless' most days - always first thing in the morning and often during the day. I'm finding it very very useful - its great remembering when in
meetings or other 'face to no face' situations - it really is of enormous practical value.  I believe it is the best 'trick' I've come across for really moving into a detached state, stilling the mind, and being just aware and there.  It removes - no obliterates - any feelings of self consciousness - in fact that sort of feeling  just doesn't arise unless I allow thinking or desires to interfere, but it seems to be reasonably easy to push any of that aside , almost to see it coming and 'close the door'. That’s really marvellous. May it continue to stay with me, and grow, and stay for longer and longer. I'm certainly going to work on it. Ray

I've been doing Vipassana and other spiritual practices for several years and have benefited a lot from them, but it was Seeing that suddenly made everything that the sages have taught seem perfectly clear. It's been about six months since I first discovered headless seeing and, while the initial novelty is wearing off, it keeps offering startling new insights. And it's something I can practice any time and any where. Candace

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your incredible website and for the opportunity of having the Reflections. How blessed I am to have found such dear friends on another path to the Oneness we all share. I enjoyed the experiments and I love the way they are interpreted! But the most valuable gift I received was the heartfelt reminder that we have to consciously, and repetitively seek to be in that empty, (peaceful), spaciousness until we are established in it. Or rather, until we have removed all the blocks to our awareness that we are it. Second to that is the reminder of the value of being in contact with others on a spiritual journey. Linda.

At this early stage of my "seeing", I am trying to practice or be aware of the two-way looking as often as I remember. However, one is easily drawn into the world and its distractions. I am grateful for your regular Reflections, which then bring my attention back to headlessness. Also I never attended a workshop, so I am on my own for now. One of the sayings I came across some years ago, now makes a lot of sense. The saying is attributed to St Francis of Assisi and is: "What we are looking for, is what is looking". Obviously, St Francis was a seer. J.B.

I think the seeing is wonderful but mainly I forget... Whenever I point my finger towards 'my face' I just instantly smile ...but no fireworks/thunderbolts and sometimes/often a bit of 'so what'... Intuitively and from what I've read, the answer to that is to keep practising. When moving - if I remember and stay 'centered' it's nice to feel things passing into the void - generally a nice feeling but again no fireworks! and if a percieved problem arises in the mind, then pointing one hand out there as 'the problem' and 'the other hand' in the opposite direction as 'a solution' and feeling me being the space between seems to work, with the perceived problem - at least in that moment - dissolving. The 'no-face' I found very powerful when done at The Gathering and the one time I did it since. Also last night I listened to someone who was quite stressed talk for a while and I found that I could be quite empty for them and that felt good. S.

I still sit in Zazen, but instead of whatever it was I used to do in that posture I simply enjoy resting in this vast, open, silent, spaciousness. I have no particular sitting routine anymore, as this emptiness is available at any time. However I do find that this sitting still, does for some reason, help keep the "flavor" of headlessness with me during daily activities. Nelson.

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