Witnessing a woodturner at work can be mesmerizing. They can sculpt incredible pieces of art, beautiful bowls, vases, or just about anything you can imagine out of solid wooden blocks. And they do it almost effortlessly.
When I say woodturners “sculpt,” I don’t mean in the traditional sense. They don’t laboriously chip away pieces of unwanted wood like a classic sculptor. Instead, they use a lathe that spins the block of wood at high speed. This creates all the force needed for their work.
The woodturner understands that their main job is picking the right tools. The tools are then gently and precisely pressed into the spinning piece of wood. The unwanted wood disappears, almost magically, and what remains are the beautiful works of art.
The lathe does all the hard work. The tools are just gently applied.
For the spiritual seeker, conscious awakening is much like the process of woodturning. Oneness is already spinning into being all of our life experiencings. It never stops spinning.
Oneness is already doing the hard work for the seeker. It’s creating all the forces the seeker needs to consciously awaken. Understanding this completely changes our approach to seeking.
Oneness does it all
Understanding that Oneness is spinning ALL of the material of our experiencing into being removes the seeker’s primary obstacle: believing that “the character” (a.k.a. the false self) can do anything at all to foster their conscious awakening.
It is this assumption that the false self can do ANY work regarding their conscious awakening that ends up blocking conscious awakening itself.
Let’s face it, the character sees this conscious awakening process to be a great deal of work. And all of this very important work means perpetual full employment for the character, which ironically, only reinforces the illusion of the character.
When the seeker understands that they are the constant expression of Oneness spinning our relative world into being, then they see that their only job is to just gently apply the right tools to the illusion of the character. When done properly, the illusion almost magically disappears.
Getting everywhere by getting here
Oneness gets nowhere on “the path” to conscious awakening from the perspective of a false self. It gets everywhere (which paradoxically is always “here”) on the pathless path by shifting the lens of our experiencing away from the false self. This leaves you as the lens of Oneness itself.
From the perspective of Oneness, a seeker trying to disappear the character is an interesting experiment, even an adventure. “Hmm…which tool can whittle away the false notion of this character?” It’s fascinating, even fun, if Oneness views the quest with curiosity and wonder.
Our experiencing of living is either unconsciously experienced as a separate and illusory character, or as Oneness itself. Understanding these two options redirects our approach to seeking.
Seeking becomes, first, a noticing that the character has become the lens through which you (as Oneness) have been experiencing life. Then, you (as Oneness) can pick a tool to be gently applied to the perpetual “spinning into being” of experiencing to dissolve the character.
Tricking the trickster
The trick lies in picking a tool that does not reinforce the character.
The most effective “tool” for conscious awakening is often the seemingly innocent question. It is the character’s nature to be supremely overconfident about its actual existence, so a bit of inquiry isn’t perceived as any sort of threat.
Self-inquiry and direct inquiry questions are often viewed as overly simple, even silly, by the character. They often seem barely worth the time it takes to ask them. But they are the Trojan Horse that leads to the dissipation of the false self.
There is never a doubt that the character seems to exist. Our sense of being a character is genuine. But the seeker must be willing to overcome the presumption that what seems real, is real. They must be willing to take a good, hard look at all the evidence.
Simple questions, and the simple investigations that follow, almost instantly whittle the imaginary character back into the nothingness that it is. The nonexistent phantom that most people believe themselves to be is simply never there if you just take the time to inquire and carefully observe.
And the wonderfully clever part of self-inquiry is that, because the character is always so confident it will be there when you look, it offers no resistance.
If the spiritual seeker sincerely desires to whittle the false self, the character, down to nothing, then the opportunities are endless. And Oneness is already doing all the hard work. You, as Oneness, just have to pick out the tools, which means just choosing the appropriate questions.
At first the questions of self inquiry and the investigations that follow can seem a bit odd or clumsy: “Who thinks this should not be the case?” or “Where is the one who believes such a thought?” and “Can I actually find them if I look?”
But soon enough, like an old fly fisherman gracefully casting his line to exactly the right spot, you will know just the right questions to consider, and the phantom of the false self, the character, will disappear.
How does the seeker do this?
First, the seeker must understand that the character they imagine themselves to be can be reinforced in paradoxical ways. The character exerting itself in an attempt to shake itself free of its own illusion is the prime example of this. Its efforts will be in vain if there is too much of the character involved in this noble quest.
It’s all Oneness playing within Oneness, so it’s not a problem. This is just the game most seekers are playing. They add material to the illusory character at one end while grinding away at it on the other.
But if you find you are among those who are moved to break free of this endless cycle, then your first step is to find a teacher or teaching that can lead you to the conscious realization that the false self, “the character,” doesn’t actually exist. Having a true, active experiencing of the character not existing is key because this sets a reference point for you as you move forward.
Having clearly shown you who you are not, the teaching must then guide you to an experiencing of Oneness as who you are, as the manifesting of the continual this-here-now (including Oneness sometimes manifesting as the illusory character!).
The most rapid and reliable method I have found for this second step is directed self-inquiry with a teacher who knows how to steer the seeker to the desired destination. With a teacher who knows how to do this, it’s a profound step forward on the spiritual journey.
The continued practice of self-inquiry on your own is also invaluable once you understand how to use the tools to spin away the illusory false self.
If you cannot see through the fictional character at an active experiential level, then it’s virtually impossible to see that Oneness is always already doing all the work. First find out who you are not. Only then can you find out who you are. This is “the negative way.”
Why focus on the false self first
The character is the illusion of separateness that blocks the awareness of the Oneness that you always already are. You can’t actively experience the spinning lathe of Oneness doing all the work if you have not seen through the character. This missing first step seems to be why most seekers go their entire lives without having a conscious awakening.
Seeing that all the hard work for conscious awakening is already being done by Oneness is critical because only then do we not engage the character to do the work. Engaging the character only reinforces and augments the character that one is attempting to whittle away.
The character growing at one end while being sculpted away at the other is a spiritual con game that few seekers ever catch on to. Failing to see beyond the character, they never progress beyond a certain point.
If you have had the clear experiential knowing that you are Oneness, then, when you find yourself pulled back into the dream, you have a much better chance of choosing the right tool to get back to knowing that you are Oneness. It’s like driving back to a place you’ve visited before. You might not remember every detail of the journey, but you have enough feel for the destination that you can probably find your way back.
Actively understanding that Oneness is the ever-spinning lathe of our experiencings makes it possible for Oneness to sculpt away the character at any time, in any place, with just the smallest application of self-inquiry.
Oneness is always spinning the experiencing of living for us to revel in. If we gently apply one of the proper and precise tools of self-inquiry, the character quickly disappears. If we don’t, it doesn’t. Either way, it’s Oneness spinning our experiencing into being. Neither mode of experiencing is “better,” but living consciously as Oneness does bring a welcome reprieve from illusory struggle and suffering.
How do I acquire the tools?
You need to have some basic tools to temporarily spin the character out of its seeming existence. Sometimes just seeing the lathe of life spinning out all of our experiencings is enough. But generally, if one wants the character to be fully sculpted away, a teacher or some teachings and a bit of time are needed.
The tools are sometimes subtle, sometimes sharp, sometimes comical, but all can work at sculpting away the fiction, the false self, known as “the character.” An Awakening To Oneness Session with a teacher who can guide you to an experiencing of spinning the character into temporary extinction is invaluable.
After you have that “One Taste,” continuing sessions are of great help in honing your skills as you become more adept at using the tools in the post-awakening process of clearing the character.
Can it really be this simple?
No doubt, some seekers may object to this simple “right-tools-for-the-job” perspective on conscious awakening.
But like many things in life, “simple” does not mean easy or common. For example, the miracle of penicillin comes from a common mold, but it took millennia for this to be discovered.
“Seeing” the lathe of Oneness spinning our experiencing of living into being is the challenge. The character loves to “do the work” and thus subtly reinforce itself, preventing its own extinction.
The mistake for the seeker lies in not using the right tools. But even then it’s Oneness not using the right tools, so it’s a “mistake” only in the relative sense. But knowing you are Oneness playing this game with itself does make all the seeking both more enjoyable and ultimately more successful.
And for those who have seen all of this in the past but do not currently abide as Oneness, the mistake is in failing to see that you still need to gently apply the tools on occasion. The tools allow you to whittle away the character that still comes out to play in the spinning of our life experiencings. Oneness will almost always reintroduce the character if we’re not vigilant – until it doesn’t.
Grace or dumb luck?
Prior to my first conscious awakening in 2004, the Gary character was no longer seeking a conscious awakening. After decades of very effortful and unfruitful seeking, the character had reached what I like to call a “profound disinterestedness” in the actual attainment of conscious awakening.
It was only with the character passively distracted with the sheer pleasure of the teachings I was reading that I saw Oneness spinning each present moment into being.
I then somewhat unknowingly used self- inquiry tools, mostly out of curiosity and for my own entertainment, as part of my unknowing “practice” to keep the character at bay for years. This was either grace or dumb luck. The jury is still out.
I had been taught that the character never returns once it has been seen through. I was taught that it’s “One and done. Yippee!” But I don’t believe this is the case for the vast, vast, vast majority of seekers.
The good news…
The lathe of Oneness is always spinning out new manifestations. That is the good news.
But, the character grows back if you don’t occasionally inquire as to how all this work of spinning our experiencings into being occurs. That’s the bad news. (But not really. It’s just what’s going on.)
You are Oneness that plays around at being the character. It’s just part of the game. But if you think you are the character working to have a conscious awakening, the con game will continue until you finally catch on. If the character is working at conscious awakening, then it’s only reinforcing itself.
Summary for the seeker: Relax as best as you can
So what is the seeker to do? Well, simply realize that the hard work is already being done. Oneness is always spinning out our experiencings. It never stops. Phew, what a relief!
All you have to do as the seeker is find the right tools that will whittle away the character. Then apply them wherever and whenever Oneness (what you always already are) notices that it would like to do so.
A woodturner sculpting a wooden bowl on a lathe or a seeker sculpting away the character that Oneness spins into their experiencings are similar processes. The spinning is already happening. You can relax. You just choose the appropriate tool in the moment.
Then, as the character almost magically disappears, you can consciously experience your Self as the masterpiece of Oneness spinning into being each and every present moment. You are the creator and the created. Revel in your work – your delightful and effortless work.