The Headless Way
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A workshop experiment by Colin Oliver, written in the early 1970s

A presentation that owes much to Douglas Harding and other friends. The aim of these notes, and of the pointers they include, is to draw your attention to what you were acquainted with as a young child but may have since lost sight of: who you really are.

The approach is simple. Your finger is an arrow, you are the target.

Point at your feet. You see feet. Point at your knees. You see knees. Point at your stomach. You see a stomach. Point at your chest. You see a chest. Point at your face. You see.........

When someone looks at me, he sees a face. When I look here, I find nothing at all. My pointing fingertip, coming closer and closer to what I imagined was a forehead, disappears into nothingness.

What happens to your fingertip?

When someone looks at me, he sees two eyes. In my own experience, I find only one.

Now count your eyes. How many are you looking out of? Perhaps you have a single eye, all glass, and nobody is looking out.

Look at yourself and look at a friend and notice the difference.

Here are three questions: Are you face to face? Your friend has a face, but have you? Are you not space, open to the face before you?

To make it even plainer, get a light-coloured paper bag about 30cm. deep and cut off the bottom. You have made a tunnel. Fit your friend's face at one end and your face at the other, and look at each other.

Two questions: How many faces do you see in the bag? Is your end closed, or open?

If you want to find where you keep your face, look in the mirror.

The space where you are is clear and unmistakable. Once the penny has dropped, your identity re-discovered, it is available for you to look into whenever you wish.

You appear from the outside to be a person, but your inside look is airy and light. Could this be the story of everyone? So often overlooked, here is our common ground where all are one.

Being so airy, do you have any boundaries, any divisions between inside and out?

If your eye is a window, has it any frame?

Just as you are open to your friend's face, are you not open to everything? Unbounded, you contain the whole world. Inside and out become one.

Sit with eyes shut and attend to your breathing.

To the stillness and silence of your own being is given the sensation of your breath.

Now attend to the sounds in the room or outside.

Does anything separate you from the tap of a hammer or the call of a bird?

Do they occur, like your breathing, within you?

You might ask what happens to thoughts and feelings. With nothing to box them in, do they not come and go, a part of the world scene?

I find I am unable to hold on to any particular thought or feeling. Being without substance, I have no means.

The truth of who you really are is bare and unchanging. What does change and deepen is the appreciation of the truth.

A passing thought that may strike you is this one: nothing here was ever born.

Seeing into the clearness, the spaciousness of your being, can you find a hint of anything but the unborn?

From the heart of things, right where you are, everything is managed. A leaf unfurls, a tree bends in the wind. Your heart beats, your hand grasps a tool. Simply be aware of the space in which it all happens.

Here also is the source of love. Being your friends can be remarkably like loving them. Be open and love comes, in its own time, into the world.

Sometimes, it is true, everything is experienced with a sense of dryness. At other times, the world takes on a freshness, a brilliance, where all things are charged with their own existence.

Attend to the peeling of an orange. Be in the moment, alert to the colour of the orange, its texture, fragrance and taste.

Notice where the segments go when you eat them. Do they disappear into a mouth?

Whatever the activity, see that you never make an appearance.

You may find endless inspiration and creativity in this new openness.

Something of that creativity may go into presenting and sharing the truth with others. This is the way for the One to celebrate, to delight in, its own ever renewing self-discovery.

See what happens.

Continue with another experiment

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