We can’t seek the deepest rest. We can relax the activity that obstructs our contact with it.
Several years ago, I suffered a heart attack resulting in a triple bypass surgery and many months of recovery.
One morning, my old friend Martha and I were sitting meditation. (Well, she was sitting and I was lying down). She ended the practice with a lovely ritual that she teaches to men at San Quentin prison. She invited me to place my right hand on my heart and our left on my belly, repeating the phrases, “I am here now. We are here now.”
Here and now is the only place of rest.
The night before I woke from a painful, fitful sleep and a difficult dream. I heard a voice—a voice from my soul. It was giving me guidance. Offering me my own words. “Find a place of rest in the middle of things.” I smiled.
Then I thought, OK Frank, just try to rest.
But, trying to rest is not resting; it’s more trying. You can’t lift your bag if you don’t expend effort. But when you apply this same sort of effort to resting in or knowing our essential nature, it backfires. We can’t seek the deepest rest. We can relax the activity that obstructs our contact with it.
When we look closely, we see that desire is continual, bubbling beneath conscious awareness, always seeking something. It ignites and fuels the seeking. The desire is always for what is not here now. A different condition, a state of mind or heart other than the one I am having. "I want the pain and cramps to stop, I want to sleep undisturbed, I’m tired of feeling weak, dependent and limited."
Energetically this desire feels agitated, restless. On the gross level, it feels like craving or avarice for an object we feel we need like wealth, security, or a spiritual state of mind. But it has subtler forms, ways we feel the disconnection with our basic nature. The belief that getting what we do not have will quench our thirst perpetuates the seeking. This is the real illness and the paradox of the spiritual life. It can drive us mad; seeking, striving to find, through some frenetic activity, what’s already here. So often we form a spiritual idea of where we should be and then use that idea to not be where we are.
That type of agitated looking won’t ever connect us to our own deep nature. And, trying to get rid of the desire, to get the seeking for something else to stop doesn’t work either. That’s just more seeking, more effort and trying.
So being a “seeker,” an identity many of us proudly defined ourselves by in the past, is a bad deal. That type of seeking keeps us on the wheel of suffering. This desire comes from a feeling of disconnection from what is already here.
Yet there is a seeking that is useful. Buddhist sometimes call it “wholesome desire.” The desire to be free, to know and be ourselves completely. Others might say to know God.
The seeking that arises from this wholesome desire doesn’t feel agitated or restless. It feels more like love. We love our nature, we love Presence and because we so love it we want to be close to it, intimate with it. It’s a kind of love affair.
Remember how you want to see a new lover with as few clothes on as possible? Completely naked. Similarly, as we progress on the spiritual path, we hunger to see the naked truth, unobstructed by preference and the clothing of our treasured beliefs.
Our Being is a wild shapeshifter, constantly changing, with countless expressions, outfits, and appearances. And since nothing is outside our deepest nature what choice do we have but to be open to it all? It doesn’t mean we need to like all the expressions or the outfits. We only need to be willing to meet them.
Being open and receptive to whatever arises.
“I am here now. We are here now.”
It seems that one of the qualities of a truly open mind is a deep restfulness. We come to this restfulness by accepting and understanding our desires not be rejecting them.
Lying there in bed at 2 a.m., the desire machine is churning and belching out all sorts of preferences. “I want the pain and cramps to stop, I want to sleep undisturbed, I’m tired of feeling weak, dependent, and limited.”
Then, I remember going to see dying patients. How I pause at the threshold. The pause breaks the momentum of habit. It gives us a choice.
The choice, the only choice we really have, is to be open or closed. Open to what is unfolding or selective in our acceptance. Actually, I don’t like the word acceptance—it has too many moral overtones. The word “allow” is better-suited to what I am describing. It’s a softer word, a word that takes me beyond accepting and rejecting altogether. It releases me from the whole idea of comparison, of preference for or against, of hope and fear. It is a resting place.
Resting in allowing.
When I was a kid, I liked lying on the bottom of the pool watching the bubbles rise and dance above me as I rested. Later as an adult, I got the same pleasure in scuba diving. I loved the experience of sinking, slowly descending, coming to stillness on the bottom.
Lying in bed I fall, like a stone dropped into thick liquid. My body starts to rest. Heart at rest, mind at rest. Consciousness at rest.
I give myself to rest.
In that moment, there is no disconnection so nothing to seek. You see, seeking doesn’t end by finding—seeking just ends.
Read more about how to find rest in a world that just wants you to keep going.