The Way Out of the Desert of Experience
A talk by Da Free John
Originally published in Vision Mound Magazine, March/April 1980, Vol 3, No 2
Adi Da Samraj: The highest yoga one can do is to do “samyama”* on experience itself, on existence itself, on the body itself, until the body enters into its fundamental Identity. To enter into the experience of all your structural aspects, even the higher mind, is to do samyama on it. It is to enter into the consideration of all bodily and psychic existence until you pass beyond it. Thus, mysticism is not an end in itself. Its true form is in the form of samyama, the investigation of the higher mind without illusions, cravings, or attachments. Ultimately you come to do samyama on the seer of the visions, the self, or the very process of attention, and you recover your true Identity. Then the “eyes open” and you see again, you re-cognize all phenomena to be the Energy of the Self, the Transcendental Self. The Self is the Existence of Energy, the ecstasy of Transcendental Existence in the midst of phenomena.
* In Love of the Two-Armed Form, Da Free John describes samyama as “a process of one pointed but ultimately thoughtless concentration and exhaustive contemplation of a particular object, function, person, process, or condition, until the essence or ultimate obviousness of that subject is clear.”
You must become turned on by Infinity, by the Mystery of Life, by your own Ignorance. You must let that Mystery turn on your entire being. Every moment that you contemplate It, you should feel that your hair is standing on end. Do you know what I mean? You can make yourself feel something like that if you really deeply think about and feel the existence of everything.
Well, you must constantly practice that technique of ecstasy. It is good to turn on that sensation. It is orgasmic, in a way, but not in the degenerative sense. It is a regenerative excitement in the body. It is the body’s signal to be blissful, Your hair should always feel as if it were standing on its end. To contemplate existence that deeply means that you must pass beyond your superficial feelings, reactions, thoughts, and so forth, into the deepest, most profound consideration of existence.
“Have you ever imagined being alone in the desert?”
Have you ever imagined being alone in the desert? Completely alone in the desert, with nothing in any direction but desert and the movement of the sun and moon and stars? Just imagine it. There is nothing visible but desert, and you know only that there is nothing but desert, that it does not come to an end, that it is infinite in extent in all directions from the point where you stand. There is no way out of this desert, and you are completely alone in it. No one else is there.
Well, that metaphor in fact describes your Condition of existence. Knowing this, you will have to discover some way to feel blissful even under those conditions. Do you see? If you knew that your present situation – this bodily life and experience – was absolutely your condition, and that there was no way out of it, then the game of personal accomplishment or escape would have no meaning.
Presently, however, you are still always trying something new to make yourself feel better. You have not acknowledged the fact, you have not gotten the joke yet, that there is no way out of the desert. You must live in the desert and find some way to be blissful under the conditions of the desert, or, in other words, the conditions of your life situation,
If you realize that there is no way out of the desert and its inexorable round of experiences, what will you do to feel ecstatic? You will have to permit yourself to go completely mad, but the signal to madness under those conditions is the signal to Enlightenment, not insanity. Not even the mood of self-destruction can suffice. There you are in the desert with nothing to contemplate but desert, and then you start understanding what must be done. You could ride on horseback in the desert at tremendous speeds. You could try, running uphill in the desert. (All of these are your attempts at mysticism, yoga, expanded as transcendental experience.) You keep finding new vehicles and trying to move faster and faster toward the place beyond the desert, but there is no place beyond the desert. The desert is infinite. You keep finding speedier passage, thinking you are coming closer to escaping from it, but you never do escape. It is only when you realize the joke, the paradox of that situation, that you will transcend the whole affair in a leap of intuition and give up the desert altogether. Thus, you must radiate yourself out of the desert. You must outshine it through love because there is no strategic or self-possessed way out of it. Transfiguration, or bodily Enlightenment, is the only ‘true passage beyond the worlds of experience, high and low, into the Divine Domain of All-Pervading Being.
Do you think the situation of being in an infinite desert is different from your present situation in any significant way whatsoever?
DEVOTEE: No, I am in the same kind of place, obviously.
DA FREE JOHN: Yes, and you think that to die is a way out of the world of experience, but that is not true. You only remain in the desert on another vehicle. All these transitions and changes do not become a way of escape. They are only different forms of passage. Thus, at some point you realize that you are always changing shape, but there is no way out of the world of experience. There is no horse fast enough to take you to the edge of Infinity. When you see that there is no way out of the desert, or out of the same stream of bodily existence wherein you now appear, and wherein you do not understand what is happening to you, then you realize that the only way to live is to outshine it instead.
It is true that you do not know what is happening to you. You do not know what it is that you are involved in, what this whole lifetime amounts to, what it is about. We are not given any information about that. Don’t you think that is very peculiar? It is very strange. Here we are in this complex condition of existence, but no information has ever been given to us about what this life is about, what its purpose is, what it is. There is no direct communication about it. It is all mysterious.
The only way we can obtain any sense of what this existence really is all about is to feel the Mystery of it, to just throw ourselves into the Life-Principle. We have not been given any instructions about what it is that we are and what we are supposed to be doing here. This all has to be discovered through intuition. It is not directly shown. The only mechanism we have for seeing what life is is the mechanism of intuition, or Divine consciousness. Without entering into the domain of Divine consciousness, you are all very complex beings in a complex world, but you have not a clue about what it is or why it is. You have all kinds of stories about it, explanations, but they are not believable. Nothing is believable. Experience itself is not believable, not to mention the ideas that we have about experience. We are not convinced. We do not know what is happening! And we have not yet received the clue that will make things fall into place, or that will make experience seem obvious and direct and free of dilemma. Thus, everybody is waiting to find out what this existence is all about, but we are each in the desert, and nobody is ever going to tell us. It is that realization that makes you leap beyond your everyday mind into higher or Transcendental consciousness.
We are absolutely solitary – as if in the desert – because we have no experience that is independent of our own minds, our own subjectivity, our own consciousness, our own bodily sensations. We are only perceiving our bodies. When we are looking at some object, we are in fact only perceiving signals in our own bodies. It seems that we are seeing actual objects. But no, we are seeing a whole complex field of energy changes and signals all over the body, and that field is interpreted by the brain as this likeness that we call the objective world. We are actually viewing our own electronics. Your vision right now is an electronic impulse in your brain. You translate it perceptually as the objective world, but that is not what you are actually seeing. This configuration of little blips of energy in the brain – which is not, in fact, a picture of anything like the objective world – is somehow interpreted by this strange convoluted brain as what you are now seeing. You are not seeing anything except your own brain. Therefore, you are existing in a desert, a wilderness of Mystery, an illusion of appearances, without a single answer except to give everything up and let yourself go.
You consider all of your perceptions in terms of what you seem to be seeing. With vision, for instance, the light from the objects that you are apparently seeing is reflected on the retina, a maze of .complex signals starts passing through the brain, and then the brain interprets these signals to be these objects. But what you are actually looking at is the signals of your own brain. Their meaning is these objects, these people, but you are not seeing anything more than phenomena of your own brain. The same is true of the other senses. You are only hearing yourself, tasting, yourself, smelling yourself, thinking yourself – even making love to yourself! You are in a desert, inescapably bound to your own fundamental existence. There is the infinity of experience on all sides, but you are stuck in the desert because it does not change. All you are is Awareness, simply pure Awareness. That is the desert in which you exist-simply Awareness in an infinite range of experience that cannot come to an end.
You must enter into the most profound meditation upon, consideration of, and identification with your very Consciousness, and see that you are nothing but Consciousness, and that all phenomena are simply modifications of that Consciousness. Experiences can come and go and they can change, but you are simply Aware. Even your own body is an experience of the primal Awareness that is you. The body is Consciousness. This Consciousness that refers to itself is the body, but it is also Awareness and Energy. We can identify the body properly only from the native position of Consciousness. You must see and feel that you are Consciousness, Awareness, of which everything is a modification. All objects of that Awareness are its own modifications. The brain is looking at itself, the mind is observing its own possibilities. But no experience changes anything for this Being, this Consciousness. It cannot get out of the realm of experience without transcending its illusory sense or feeling of limitation. You are simply witnessing the collision of spacetime in your own Consciousness. But you are never anything other than this Consciousness. That condition never changes.
DEVOTEE: In that case it is impossible to be out of relationship with anything.
DA FREE JOHN: Yes. Everything is literally you. It is a modification of your own Consciousness. You never exist relative to experience except as Consciousness observing its own modifications. Your mode of existence never changes from that. But if you could rest deeply in identity with pure Awareness and Energy, then you would always have a remarkable realization of your relationship to the mind and the body. You would not be located in them. They would be modifications of yourself. And they themselves would feel more like energies, which is what they are.
Doesn’t the body feel like a form of energy, when you rest in the Company of the Spiritual Master? The reason is that you are living as the nervous system in the field of energy more directly than usual. You have an unobstructed sensory contact with the physical body, without recoil. Being the nervous system, you feel identified with energy quite naturally. When you are the body from the point of view of the nervous system, it feels different. It feels like energy. It does not feel the way it looks.
To be one of these bodies does not feel like what the body appears to be from the point of view of someone viewing it. When you look at all these other people, they seem very solid. And you interpret yourself to be equally solid. You see your reflection in the mirror, people respond to you, you see your body every day in some ways, and thus accumulate more and more of this limited presumption about yourself. But if you will enter profoundly into the consideration, the experience, and the intuition of your actual situation, you will feel that you are simply Consciousness, or Awareness, and Energy All experiences are modifications of that Infinite Center. And that is what it truly feels like to be you.
Therefore, you must dominate your experience with that Realization, because that is your only certainty. That is the primal fact of our existence. You must presume it. You must be Enlightened to begin with. Then when you see other beings, you will feel them in terms of this intuition quite naturally instead of being locked into the subjective illusion of the world. You must always continue to feel what it is to exist as exactly what you are seeing now. You must realize what your situation is and truly enter into it, profoundly exist in it. That is Self-Realization. You must intuitively feel that everything is a modification of That, that you are Infinite Consciousness and Energy. You must exist more and more stably and intensely with that direct Awareness. This Awareness changes you, Transfigures you. The more you live as energy, obviously the more you manifest energy. If that is what you conceive yourself to be, then you will be energetic and fully conscious. If you presume yourself to be a poor, downtrodden, fleshy individual with lots of complexes, then that is what you will manifest. You must instead act on the basis of your most direct intuition. And that is not to be found in your outer experience. Rather, it is to be realized in your fundamental and direct intuitive sense of your situation. It is based on entrance into the most intuitive depth of your own awareness. You will see that you exist as Awareness, as Energy. And you will naturally feel that every aspect of your experience is nothing but a modification of That, and you simply remain as that Awareness, and have no dependence on anything that arises or disappears.
This condition of pure Awareness and Energy is also the very Condition of the body. The body in its true Condition is not a separate self. It is the very Nature of matter itself. It is not other than the material realm or the mind. It is the very Identity of all existence. To be enlightened, then, is to be enlightened bodily. It is to be an enlightened body. The body is not what it appears to be, but it is what has been intuited to be the case on the basis of the most direct Realization. Any other perception is indirect, an inference of your own nervous system. When you perceive objects, in fact you are only seeing blips in the computer of the brain. Therefore, you have to overwhelm the body -the limit of the self, in other words-with this ecstatic intuition, this Radiance.
Don’t you think it strange to realize that when you are seeing something, you are not actually seeing that? That’s re-cognition, suddenly grasping what the act of attention truly is. You can no longer depend on the conventions of the ideas and perceptions of this world to be sane when you have seen yourself so clearly. But, you see, we have to remain in the disposition of discriminative insight to realize this Truth. We must understand the things that everybody takes seriously. We must understand the conventions of our experience, realize what they really are, and work through that queer feeling that comes when you are losing the illusory grounds of conventional sanity and passing into a higher state. It is the wisdom of your own body to know its own Truth, to see it, to intuit it. The body intuits itself to be other than what it appears to be in its own reflections and other reflections it sees. The body intuits its true Identity or Situation. In Truth, the body is situated in absolute Energy or Consciousness. That is what you are looking at directly, and the phenomena of experience are nothing more than the body’s own signals. You are looking at the room indirectly. The pattern you identify as all of these objects in the room is just a little nervous energy in the brain. Because you believe its limits, you cannot get out of the desert, you cannot see through yourself. You wander in yourself. Only when you see that you cannot get out of yourself through experience, but only through transcendence of self, do you begin to see clearly. You gain the capacity to exist as unqualified Consciousness and Energy while performing ordinary acts. And you never lose that direct sense that you previously may have had every now and then of what your actual Situation is.
You are always hearing modifications of your own nervous system. All the music you ever hear, for instance, is in your own brain. If you stop hearing external sounds, you still hear internal sounds. Sometimes you tune in on and hear your nervous system directly rather than via external sense signals. First you tune into those inner sounds, and then you go beyond the sound in the nervous system into the Life-Current. You all may have experienced a sense of strong current of energy rising up your back into the back of your head. That is the feeling of the intensification of the sensory current that goes up the back of the spine. This current is the same as the kundalini circuit described in some of the yogic traditions, so it shows you something about what kundalini is. It shows you something about how the energy must flow in the body for you to be more intense than experience, or to transcend experience by being completely full of pleasure. It is always good to relax the body into the feeling that energy is rising up the spine, and thus to remain constantly in contact with the central nervous system.
Therefore, rest in the status of the central nervous system, with direct intuition of the Life-Current and the Transcendental Consciousness. All ecstatic practices are attempts to realize that intuitive disposition of resting in God and to allow yourself to be radiant from that position of resting as the central nervous system. They are means to outshine or outfeel your own reactivity. You must spend your entire life contemplating this Mystery. It is the highest pleasure. I have always thought that the only way to live is constantly to address the Mystery in every moment. No other occupation has ever been able to distract me. I have never been able to do anything, really, other than that. And what we must’ do as a community is to create the cultural circumstance to be able to deeply contemplate the Mystery of existence in every moment, to be absorbed in the Current of Consciousness at its absolute depth, to be in absolute bliss all the time. Sooner or later you must realize that this Mystery is the only thing worth contemplating. It is the only thing that can be contemplated, once you realize what it is. Therefore, you must allow that contemplation to change your life entirely.