Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Everything You Need is Nothing

In pursuit of knowledge, every day something is acquired
In pursuit of Tao, every day something is released
~Tao Te Ching

We read or listen to the words of spiritual teachers. We takes notes. We study. We try to remember, hoping that the memory of words spoken or written in the past will somehow lead to awakening in the future.

And all the while we are ignoring the only possible time that awakening can happen – the present moment. And we are doing the opposite of what most teachers teach – to release. Instead we are trying our best to accumulate and retain information about a concept that we reach for as it dances just beyond our grasp.

It is never enough. We are never enough. If only I read one more book, listen to one more podcast, attend one more workshop, do more, try harder, be better….

I get that, as my shelves full of books attest. But just as you can’t learn to ride a bicycle from reading or talking about it, you will never be able to think your way to awakening. Because it isn’t a thought.

It is simply our natural state. It is who we are. Its eternal flame is obscured by our effort, by our thoughts, by our stories. But it shines on without regard for our determined quest to find it. The comparison is sometimes made to a fish in the ocean looking for water. But it is even more basic than that. It is like the ocean itself looking for water, unaware of its own nature.

We think it grand, but it is quite ordinary. It is not an escape from reality. Escaping is what we are trying to do as we search for it. It is reality, and when we finally exhaust ourselves and stop looking for it, it is revealed. We are revealed.

And what can we do then but laugh and go on with our day, our ordinary, marvelous, amazing day.

Before enlightenment, chop wood carry water
After enlightenment, chop wood carry water
~zen saying

16 thoughts on “Everything You Need is Nothing”

  1. I read a book years ago with the title "Chop Wood, Carry Water". If I remember right, it was about living enlightened in the every day, living in the moment, finding spirituality in the "mundane". Washing dishes and walking is meditative for me. I put on my holiday frame of mind and go to my front porch. I practice yoga waiting in line or sitting in traffic. It's work in progress.

  2. I love the Bible verse encouraging us to "pray without ceasing." And I remember an interviewer asking a Buddhist teacher when he meditated. "I am never not meditating," he replied. That doesn't mean that we are sitting on our cushion or kneeling in prayer 24/7. It means exactly what you describe, Mona–finding the sacred in every moment, grand or mundane. Sitting in traffic is a perfect place to awaken!

  3. I'm smiling on this one because it is true that we search for enlightenment and when we get it; we go on with our day, our amazing day.
    I had a teacher once who suggested that when you take a class or listen to a lecture don't take notes on it. Instead write down one or more original thoughts that you received while listening. It is amazing to have the Holy spirit enlighten your mind with something that can help you more than just the words from the message. It becomes a personal message to your heart.

  4. LeAnn, what a great suggestion from a wise teacher! I'm going to borrow that with my No Way Cafe in person gathering this week. So perfect. The words are never that important compared with what they open up in our own spirits. Thank you so much for sharing that. "A personal message to your heart" –lovely!

  5. I enjoyed your post today Galen.

    At the end of all our searching and grasping after truth we finally find that which satisfies our longing. It was always there but it is so subtle it cannot be grasped by the thinking mind.

    In pursuit of knowledge, every day something is acquired
    In pursuit of Tao, every day something is released
    ~Tao Te Ching

    The surrender to "not knowing" fully is perhaps the most liberating experience in life . It frees us up to be still , and silent before the great unknown power behind life.

  6. Love the end of your comment, Brian. Surrender to not knowing. That is true liberation. As Adyashanti says, surrender is the name of the spiritual game. Perfect.

  7. A few years ago I had to release all my certainties concerning, "what is truth?" . The belief system I had been indoctrinated into for 35 years made me believe it had the whole corner on truth and there was no need to ask anymore questions. It is in the surrendering to uncertainty that we find true freedom. This idea of "not knowing" with certainty, is indeed very liberating. I noticed that when someone asks the Dalai Lama a question, his first comment is often , "I don't know ". His answer reveals a wisdom and humility regarding the uncertainties of life. I admire that.

  8. What an insightful observation about the Dalai Lama. I'm so glad you told us about that. You might enjoy Pema Chodron's book "Comfortable with Uncertainty."

  9. Thanks for the direction toward Pema Chodron's book "Comfortable with Uncertainty." I will look at it. I am reading "The Untethered Soul" by Michael Singer right now for a third time. I rarely read a book three times . But this will probably go down as a spiritual classic. If you or your readers haven't read it … check it out, its well worth the search.

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