A Window is Where the Wall is Absent

The life impulse to express and to connect arises in me and in all of us. This blog is a celebration of these life impulses. Please feel free to join in the conversation or to just visit. There is a Family Photo Album beneath the posts so you can "meet" my family and I. Welcome!

Monday, May 17, 2010


I took Jack to school then came home. I'm lucky I've been able to cut back to working three days a week and today is a free day. These days when I have free time I'm eager to just hang out and pay attention to the fact of being alive.

I'm interested when feelings of restlessness and craving arise. The ancient energies of vague dissatisfaction and boredom have propelled me like a motor through the days of my life. This morning they seem fascinating, and I look at these mind patterns that have been running my life. I love to belt out the words with Mick Jagger, "Can't get no satisfaction!"

The sense of seeking has remained an undercurrent in life even as the object sought has morphed into new forms over time. As a kid it was maybe a toy, as a teenager, romance, as an adult, adventure, meaningful service, fame, enlightenment, whatever. I've even sought for freedom from seeking! Which is just more seeking of course. Different people seek different things, but the energy of seeking is the same.

The seeking is glorified in society as a sign of zest, ambition, drive. To be free of the seeking compulsion would be wimpy, according to some. Without seeking one goal after the next, we'd be rudderless and stagnant, we'd waste our lives, whispers one voice of fear in my ear.

Would I stagnate if I were not in the "seeking" mode? Or is the energy of seeking, which runs me around the same circle of futility again and again, the real stagnation?

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with seeking. Seeking is an inevitable and valid aspect of every human life- we all seek to survive, to care for our loved ones, to be happy- and that's great. I want to do the best I can on the level of seeking. I'm just wondering what else there is besides seeking.

 Seeking arises from a sense of lack, a sense of something missing, and in the end it tends to reinforce the sense of lack, the sense of something missing. Seeking leads to brief gratification followed by an intensified sense of deficiency and a renewed compulsion to seek, and so turns the hamster wheel of samsara.

The compulsion to seek need not be fought or resisted, but simply looked at. To fight the compulsion to seek is just more seeking. It only tightens the knot.

So I'm just looking: What is this restless energy of needing to get somewhere? What is this restless of energy of needing to get away from here? What is the restless energy of needing to be somebody? What is this restless energy of needing to get away from being the deficient person I am now? What is this restlessness and agitation that drives so much unnecessary and misery-producing activity (such as, in my case, overeating)? Only awareness can answer these questions, not thinking.

Have you ever glimpsed that the mind-pattern of seeking is like a big decoy that diverts awareness from present being?

To stop seeking even for an instant feels like falling off a cliff edge. I am undefended. I have no agenda to protect me from contact with the rawness and spontaneity of life in this moment. No goal means there is nothing to distract me from the fullness of here. If I'm not seeking I'm not thinking, the mind is quiet, the flame of attention illuminates this moment.

It is possible to step off the seeking merry-go-round for a moment.

 All the energy that had been consumed in seeking is suddenly freed. It's disorienting. The energy that had been on a mission to save the world and change others, etc., is unplugged from the imaginary false self. What's left is nothing out of the ordinary. But when the energy that had been consumed in seeking is suddenly freed to flood the present moment, the voltage of consciousness ratchets up:  The ordinary is revealed to be a stunning field of aliveness.

When the energy pattern called seeking comes back into view today I may get absorbed into it and become the seeker, that's what happens most days and it's fine. But sometimes I am not completely lost in the mind-pattern/identity of seeker/doer.

Then I am the awareness that sees the mind-pattern of seeking but is not trapped in that mind-pattern, even when activities of seeking are taking place. There is a moving through goal-directed activities without losing touch with the plenitude of being in this moment. Concurrent with goal-directed activity there is a sense of completion. This is living in two dimensions, as Eckhart Tolle says. The dimensions of becoming and being are simultaneous and need not be in conflict.

Sometimes there is doing without any sense of being the doer- such a weightless, free feeling! And sometimes there is doing that is encumbered with a heavy sense of "me doing it, me being the doer, me working very hard and feeling very sorry for myself, etc." Both are fine, it's just interesting to notice the shift from imagining myself as the doer, to dropping that imagined sense of being the doer. It's interesting that doing carries on very well even when the notion of personal doer-ship is absent.

Being has nothing to do with seeking. Being is what is here now. In this moment there is a cessation of seeking. There is a vacuum-like openness. Into this openness there is a gentle burst of sheer aliveness. The aliveness that is always here but rarely fully felt.  It's another cosmic joke: not seeking is finding.



roseduncan said...

I really like this post Colleen. I wonder though if it's the act of pursuing something that makes us feel like we're on a treadmill or if that's a trick we play on ourselves, a mental trick. Sometimes doing something, pursuing something can feel completely freeing, as if you're not seeking anything at all . . .

Colleen Loehr said...

Excellent point Naomi! Thanks, Colleen

No Happy Pill said...

Constantly seeking something to complete us or create our happiness is an endless cycle, isn't it? When we obtain that which we seek, are we content then to just be? Not usually... then the vague dissatisfaction creeps in again, and we're off to seek the next thing! Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Colleen!

Colleen Loehr said...

Hi Janeen, I'm happy to "see" you! You describe the endless cycle of seeking very clearly. There's a narrowness of attention as it gets caught up in the endless seeking groove, and perhaps this constriction of attention itself produces discomfort, tension, and hence...more seeking for relief.
It feels good to open attention and step outside the frame of the whole seeking pattern to just look at it. The obsession with seeking on a larger societal scale fuels our consumer civilization, which is destroying the planet. Maybe whatever we can discover directly from a personal investigation into our own experiences of the creep of vague dissatisfaction (as you aptly describe it) would be reveal what's happening on a larger scale. There is probably a ton of stuff about this in the Buddha's teachings and in others teachings, and I love to study these teachings. But bottom line is the investigation and seeing must be direct, not second-hand. Thanks for contributing to the dialogue and investigation...Jack is saying now- "Mom, let's go for a walk!" Bye. (I would probably have responded more to your comment earlier Naomi, but was multi-tasking at the time with the usual bustle going on around the house.)

Triza said...

Thank you for a wonderful post!
This feeling of disatisfaction and always wanting the next thing has also haunted me for a while.Now,from time to time i too notice the mind going over and over about the next best thing that will clear it all away.It now feels like one thought after another and then another.There is also a deep sense of realization that there never was a problem.nothing to find.

Colleen Loehr said...

Beautiful Triza! There is not freedom IN thought, but freedom FROM thought, which you describe when you say "It now feels like one thought after another and then another. There is also a deep sense of realization that there never was a problem, nothing to find." Thought is just thought- it's not reality! It's not a problem, it's just a thought. I feel less compelled to act on every thought when I see it is just a thought; though I still act on plenty of thoughts and then end up sometimes regretting it (which is just more thoughts). It's heartening to me whenever I realize how much we are all "in the same boat" (or all "in the same mind-patterns")- and I relate totally when you describe being haunted by a feeling of dissatisfaction and "always wanting the next thing". It's wonderful to SEE these mind-patterns clearly, instead of just being trapped inside of them. The seeing is outside of the pattern. Thank you so much for your comment!

Alton said...

Your blog is always pensive Colleen. Lots of issues to contemplate.

My happiness depends on my quest for Nibbana and no longer having to be compelled to be reborn.

If I am able to sit in meditation 4 hours per day I have some slim chance of fulfilling the aforesaid desire.

This morning I was down in the dumps, because my nose was running during my sitting.
I knew because of the Teachings that it would change and not last.
By the time we came home from shopping my mental states were more pleasant.

If we no longer want anything we would disappear from this plane.

Anyway that is how I see it today.

best wishes,
Altonate Alton

Colleen Loehr said...

Hi Alton,
I'm glad the truth of impermanence, "it would change and not last", helped you not get too caught up in the down in the dumps mood. If I really "got it" that nothing lasts, I wouldn't waste much energy clinging and resisting passing phenomena. It's amazing how much the mind resists the obvious truth of impermanence. Thank you for visiting Alton and I hope the cold symptoms have been very impermanent.

Triza said...

"It's wonderful to SEE these mind-patterns clearly, instead of just being trapped inside of them. The seeing is outside of the pattern"
Yes...seeing reality for what it truly is.Thank you for pointing this out so clearly.

Colleen Loehr said...

Hi Triza,
Often during the day I get "hoodwinked" into believing that the mind-patterns are "who I am." But it is so freeing to "wake up" out of the complaining voice or imagined problems and see that life is just here- so fresh and quiet! I don't have to fight the mind-patterns or get rid of them, just be the awareness of them...which is effortless. I hope you're having a beautiful day in Kenya. I enjoyed reading your comment very much, Colleen

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