There is an old Sufi saying that what we long for and seek is “closer than your jugular vein.” This saying caught my attention, because there is not much that is more fundamental than the pulse of blood that nourishes my brain. So what could be even closer than that?
Two and a half years ago, I ordered a book by Nirmala, called Nothing Personal. A few times in the text, he directs the reader to notice what is unchanging—what is so obvious that we don’t even realize that we’ve overlooked it. I lay in bed at night—when most distractions are at rest—and went on a very determined search. This search went on for many nights.
And then—there. Closer than my jugular vein. Unchanging. Awareness itself. This is way too simple, I thought. I tried to dismiss it. For weeks I checked in many times a day, in all different kinds of circumstances—in the middle of work, while eating, meditating, showering. Was this truly unchanged? Every single time I looked, that is what I discovered: the same ground of awareness—impersonal, dispassionate. Dispassionate sounded so flat that I looked it up in the dictionary: “devoid of personal feeling or bias; impartial; calm.” That is a wonderful description of what I experience. This is what lies underneath my overlays of thought or emotion. It is so always present that I hadn’t taken note. Instead, I was taught to notice all the objects that arise in awareness.
I first it seemed that this awareness was inside of me. After more observation, it became clear that the atmosphere I breathe, the trees, plants, animals—all of it, at the most basic core—emanates this same awareness. In fact, this awareness is so primal, so first, that all else forms within it. And it’s not an it, either. It is nothing and yet everything. It has no qualities and yet is completely alive. It cannot be found, and yet we are it. The “it” that isn’t an it, is the whole, vast display.
Please, don’t take me at my word. Check it out for yourself.
© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2012
sketch drawn by an old Sufi acquaintance of mine, thirty-eight years ago, Ira Freidlander