Based on the emails I receive and the queries posted via comments, I’ve compiled a list of a few frequently asked questions/clarifications with an explanation for each.
Is the state of allowing the same as watching thoughts?
No, the state of allowing is not about being stridently aware of one’s thoughts, rather it’s a state of being free of any form of a strict observation or control. “Allowing” implies that you are open to just letting the mind be (allowing it to think if it wants, allowing it to be silent if it wants, allowing it to have any movement), it’s also about being totally open to any emotions that arise. Basically, there are no rules in this state, but initially it’s helpful to just sit, close your eyes, and allow, almost as a “meditation practice” but without any form of effort or force – just sit and allow, keep it simple. However, it’s the simplest pointer that’s usually never accepted by the mind which always wants something more complex to work with, so it keeps asking am I doing this right? Shouldn’t I be trying to be aware? Basically, the mind doesn’t trust the simple state of just allowing without the need to do anything else.
To be aware of one’s thoughts, as a practice, is called “mindfulness” or the practice of detached awareness, especially in Zen tradition. This practice has some value initially in helping you grow in the ability of your being to be more aware, rather than being lost in the mind like a drone, or a zombie, moving in a dazed state. The practice of detached awareness lets you see yourself as being independent of the mind, and hence gives you a sense of your “beingness”. However, this practice by itself can just become another mind game if one starts trying to gain some form of perfection at it. This step is just necessary for you to awaken from being lost in the mind, and that’s all its purpose is – don’t make it into some life long practice. In fact, a lot of people are already highly aware of their mind and emotions, for them this step is not even needed. They can directly just move into the state of allowing.
Isn’t the state of allowing also another technique?
It depends on how you want to look at it, from one perspective it’s definitely a technique because you need to gain some understanding about it to execute it. From another perspective it’s not really a technique because it’s about letting go of all strategies or techniques you may be employing to control or suppress your mind/emotions. It’s best to start off practicing the state of allowing as a “practice” for 20-30 mins a day, whenever you find it convenient, where you just sit without any distraction (on your own) and just allow the mind/emotional movement in you. By doing it as a practice, for a while (say a couple of months), you will be able to find a grounding in your being, and get a sense of the openness that is required to be really allowing. Once you find this grounding you will automatically start feeling a desire to deepen in your being, and from there on this stops being a practice and starts becoming more of a movement in you.
Basically, the deal of practicing the state of allowing is to just sit and let go of trying to control anything within you – you don’t need any further understanding. You will notice that it may feel highly uncomfortable to you to let go of control, especially if you’ve been a highly controlling person all along. Also, you will notice a barrage of emotions, or thoughts, coming up (as a part of the release/detox process that starts happening) as you start becoming more and more open in your being, as you deepen in this state of allowing. So if you are expecting that the state of allowing will immediately bring you to a state of bliss, you will be in for a rude surprise – the state of allowing causes a release/detox to take place, and like all detoxes it does feel uncomfortable; however, just by knowing this you can stop being concerned/worried about the surge of negativity that might arise as a part of the release, and just allow a free movement, within you, so that it can ebb away.
How long will it take before I reach bliss?
Basically, what you reach is “balance”, and I find that the term “balance” is more realistic in terms of what you experience rather than the term “bliss”. The word “bliss” can create all kinds of imaginations in your mind about some extraordinary state that you are hoping to achieve, and this by itself will become a hindrance towards really allowing the balance to take place within you. The simple pointer is to realize that you will come to “ordinariness”, a simple state of balance between your dark and light nature, it’s a very different experience than what your mind might be imagining the state of balance to be. I also use another word – “wholeness”, to describe the state you reach as you come to a completion of the release cycle. Wholeness, as the term implies, means to “encompass all”, which means to encompass the dark as well as the light – so wholeness is not just some light natured state of frolicking joy, it’s more akin to a state of stability, an unwavering inner peace but not the kind your mind imagines. This is the reason why a lot of teachers who talk about the state of inner freedom suggest that you should find out for yourself what it is like instead of trying to imagine it.
And how long will it take? It totally depends on you. It depends on how much mind/emotional momentum you have going within you and it depends on how “allowing” you are towards the release. Gaining a good understanding of this process will ensure that you are far less resistant to it, and hence allow the release to happen more seamlessly, thus reducing the time it takes for you to hit balance. I can give an approximation based on my own experience and the experience of people I’ve interacted with, that it can take anywhere around 6-8 months for you to start sensing an inner stability coming in, and from there on it can take a few more months for you to feel stable in your inner stability, basically coming to a state of balance/wholeness within. Actually, the time shouldn’t really matter when you know that this process is just inevitable when you feel a calling towards it.
Shouldn’t I try to control my mind/emotions rather than letting go?
Basically, there are two streams of teaching that have been prevalent for a while – one talks about taking control (disciplining) and the other talks about letting go. The truth is that you can’t take control until you let go, that’s the paradox. You can either spend a lifetime trying to keep controlling your mind’s negativity or the emotional surges, or you can spend a small phase of moving into a state of allowing, causing a release of the momentum permanently – once the momentum of your mind/emotional-energy is totally released you don’t need to work on “controlling” it, it’s a huge relief and in practical terms it saves a lot of energy in you that you can use for creative pursuits. “Letting go” (or the state of allowing) is not some state of becoming a “drifter” for life, it’s just a temporary phase that you move into, for a while, to allow a release of the mind/emotional momentum in you so that you can live more freely in your physicality. Rest assured, that you will have a deep sense of inner control when you are done with releasing your mind/emotional momentum, you won’t feel disoriented or clueless.
The reason why people get scared of the term “letting go” is because they think it’s some kind of a renunciation of physical living, or some kind of an escape into caves, or becoming some kind of a recluse. However, the practice of letting go is a highly practical deal to ensure that you have a freer experience of physicality in terms of being free of your mental/emotional momentum and thus not feel like a prisoner to your mind or emotions. It also brings you to a state of inner fearlessness, basically because you are no longer influenced by the fear-based movements of the mind (since it has no momentum to it), and thus allows you to live your natural expression freely, and confidently.
I find it difficult to sit and allow, my fears are too gripping, what do I do?
Fear is not “infinite”, it’s a very limited force. It’s just that we immediately panic as soon as fear arises in our body and hence we fail to see its limits, and hence we constantly stay in the fear of fear. It’s helpful to just practice being totally aware of this energy of fear, just feel it in you, watch it in you, like the way you observe a phenomenon happening, like a scientist. Basically, you need to stop acting like a child and be an adult in the way you observe fear; a child, involuntarily, is afraid of fear, but as a adult you have the capacity to just be aware of the energy of fear (even though it’s uncomfortable) without fearing it. If you have the mental capacity to read and understand these words, it means you have enough awareness to see through the energy of fear. All that’s needed is that you see through the limits of the energy of fear, what’s the maximum level of discomfort it can produce? Is it worse than feeling an electric shock? Basically, it’s just that you are repeating your childhood based patterns of being afraid of fear, without realizing you’ve actually become an adult now with a higher capacity for awareness.
If the mind produces a thought of fear, just allow it instead of contradicting it. If you contradict the mind, you are entering into a fight with it, which just means that you are giving far too much importance to what your mind is implying – and this interest on your part will keep fueling your mind’s momentum. Instead, if you simply allow the mind to have its fears, and not contradict it, the mind momentum starts ebbing away and you’ve already gained freedom from the mind. For example, if the mind says “you are going to get a fatal disease” or some other fearful thought like that, instead of contradicting the mind by saying “no I am not going to get a disease, nothing will happen to me” or some other form of trying to convince the mind, just allow the mind’s fear, basically be okay with the possibility that you might end up with a fatal disease. When you become okay with the fear that the mind is projecting you defeat the mind at its game of working on your fears – basically, anything you fear will keep you a prisoner to the mind. If you want to be free of the mind’s influence, you have to be okay with everything that the mind projects as a fear.
Basically, people imagine that if they become okay with a fear then it might really happen to them – this is just a fear by itself. The truth is that you being okay with a fear ensures that you no longer give it any further momentum in you and thus are free of it. You being “not okay” with a fear does not do anything at all except to fuel the mind’s momentum and keep you a prisoner to the fear. Just because you are not okay with a fear projected by the mind does not mean anything – to continue the example above of the fatal disease fear, just because you are not okay with getting a fatal disease doesn’t mean that you won’t get it, and just because you become okay with the possibility doesn’t mean that you will get it – all that happens when you are not okay with a fear is that you stay a prisoner to that fear, and keep obsessing about that fear, and this keeps you in a constant negative state of being which just ends up building your momentum of negativity (which just causes a negative experience of life). When you become okay with a fear, your mind loses its “blackmailing” capacity with regards to that fear, and hence it loses its momentum. You can’t defeat the mind by opposing/contradicting it, you will only fuel it further.
I seem to feel confused and disoriented when I am in a state of allowing, is this normal?
It is quite normal to have these feelings come up as you deepen in the state of allowing, but it’s just a temporary deal and is a part of releasing your fear of “not knowing”, or fear of uncertainty. The mind can go into a state of worry about not having clarity, and start creating fears about the uncertain future, and this can cause feelings of confusion, disorientation and guilt in you – basically, you need to realize that this is part of the release process and it’s just a temporary phase, just allow these fears to happen without trying to suppress them. If you just continue to stay allowing the clarity will start emerging from this cloud of confusion, but don’t try too hard to find clarity and don’t depend on finding clarity to feel secure – get comfortable with confusion, get allowing of the uncertainty, this is very important if you want to transcend the grip of your mind’s fear-based pull. If you are not okay with confusion, your mind will use it as a means to keep you in fear by constantly crying about being confused – the moment you become allowing of confusion, your mind loses its grip on your being in this aspect, and thus loses its momentum.
Remember that the bottom-line of the process of allowing is to bring the mind/emotional momentum to “zero intensity”. As long as you understand the purpose of this process you will know that you are moving towards a growth, even if it feels as if you are just stuck for a while as you release the mind momentum – the phase of release can make you feel stuck, as if nothing is changing, this again is a part of the detox process to help you release the fear of being stuck. Develop the trust to know that life has your back, and you are just moving through a temporary phase of coming to an inner freedom – the process of release will come to an end, and you will start feeling highly functional soon enough. Don’t get too worried when you are in the middle of a release wondering when it will all end; when you are in the middle of a storm you can’t know when it will end, but it always does end, everything has a finishing point – your mind/emotional momentum has its limits, and soon it will run out of fuel.
How do I know if I am doing it right?
Don’t get caught up in this question. Let go of the fear of doing it right, be okay with the fact that you may be doing it all wrong – that’s what allowing is, that’s the paradox. Remember that anything you fear will keep you in the trance of the mind, including the fear of doing it right. The state of allowing is simple, it just means to allow whatever that arises, including this thought that “I may be doing it all wrong”; just allow this thought, allow the fear. When you a reach a point where you can allow a mind’s question without looking for an answer to assuage the fear of “not knowing”, you’ve basically reached the point of total allowing – to be okay with “not knowing” is a big step towards finding freedom from the mind’s grip; if you fear “not knowing” the mind will always find something to keep you in a seeking mode all the time. I am not saying stop desiring to know, or stop trying to understand and gain knowledge, I am just saying stop being afraid of “not knowing” – it’s a very obvious fear when you sense it in you.
The state of allowing is about finding total freedom from the mind (and emotional pressure) so that you are no longer moving from a place of being a prisoner to its negativity or imbalances. This freedom will allow you to stop fueling the imbalances, and hence allow a balance to come into being in your mind. None of this is some conceptual realization, rather it’s a very physical state of being where you sense that your mind/emotional-energy has completely lost its momentum/intensity and hence is no longer a disturbing force in you. You will always know it, when the momentum fully stops.
(You can also read the post – Reaching a place of total allowing, for more insights)