NonDual Awareness

After years of writing and meditating, I’ve reached the point when it’s unclear when I’m doing which. It’s not as easy as sitting on a cushion versus sitting before a computer. The similarities are endless. In both, I am attending to my breath, subtly shifting my body, watching the rise and fall of sensation and the surfacing of words. While walking down the street, I may be doing either or both of these activities although it may appear that there’s nothing more going on than my stride. Look again, I say, for what is less obvious.  Norman Fischer, poet and Zen priest explains, “Real poetry practitioners are practitioners of mind awareness, or practitioners of reality, expressing their fascination with the phenomenal universe and trying to penetrate to the heart of it.”

Real poets with real minds expressing authentic fascination. Hmm. The question, which is an ongoing one, is determining what is real and what is authentic. We can approach the answer by sitting, by writing, by attending to sensation, by walking, by a host of other activities. On lucky days, an inarguable response arrives in the form of a statement by a friend, a bodily phenomena, an image that appears in the writing. Other days, the clues are more ambiguous and we need to tease out a truth.

For the 9th century Indian poet, Laksminkara bypasses ordinary logic to “penetrate to the heart” of existence. In the excerpt below, translated by Miranda Shaw, the poet demonstrates nondual awareness by suggesting we drop beliefs and engage with experience directly.

A frog swallows an elephant

It’s amazing, Mekhala,

Do not doubt.

If it confounds you, adept,

Drop concepts now!


Amazing! A hungry monkey eats rocks!

Wonderful! The experience of the mind –

Who can express it?

When you tune into your body, what is taking place on obvious and subtle levels? Notice the way your mind roams and your phrases turn. Note how your subjective perceptions coincide — or don’t — with ordinary reality.

2 thoughts on “NonDual Awareness

  1. I think your questions, “what is real and what is authentic,” are central. Most Buddhists would say that reality is an illusion and that authenticity, being true to oneself, is that nothing is permanent. All is change. In other words, what is real is “not real” and what is authentic is “not authentic.” By “dropping concepts,” as Laksminkara says, we can see how the play of language is the most “real” and “authentic” thing there is because play never assumes immutability or static truth. His verses embrace paradox, contradiction, and surreal juxtaposition. These poetic elements can bring us closer, as can mindfulness, to the “reality” that everything is change.

  2. Well said. Yes, some poets get the idea that language, like reality, is slippery. Impermance is the closest we can get to a truth, which is changing all the time.

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