The Headless Way
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I find that Seeing comes up on its own every day. I enjoy it when it does come up. I may try to prolong it a bit, but I don't do it seriously. I think it's always in the background anyway, just below the surface. As Lao Tzu said, "Do nothing and all is done." Why does it come up on its own? Once you really See (and appreciate) the true design of awareness, you can't go back to the old way of seeing (or not seeing). You don't have to focus on it all the time. It's not the only matter that needs attention. I find it comes up especially when I am relaxed. I may be on a walk, taking a leisurely drive, engaged in a casual conversation, or just lying in the sun. If you appreciate Seeing, if you have a deep interest in it, it will not desert you. That's the grace of Seeing to me. There's nothing to do. It does itself, so to speak. Now I don't mean that our hands and feet have no work to do. I don't mean that we as human beings have no worldly use. But I do think that grace plays a part here too. As Joseph Campbell said, "Follow your bliss." J.C.

I look up at the huge Buddha image and become the capacity for the awakened being the Buddha was and stands for. Buddha face there to no face here. And then I make the aspiration to always be that capacity to be this transparent being I am, to merge and disappear into pure awareness, the Tathagata, and to strive to be that capacity through every waking moment of the day. Energy ripples flow up through the body with joy and gratitude. Thank you Douglas Harding. (From a Buddhist monk.)

I am continuing to remember my own headlessness
and recognize the headlessness of others. While walking  yesterday I found myself caught up in the stresses of life and "remembered" that I was headless and the shift to the expansiveness was dramatic and so welcomed! Forgetting leaves me in a such a fearful, lonely, tiny and very stressful space and the remembering is blissful and reassuring that "it" is always there I just need to remember to notice. Ronna.

What I am saying, and the way I interpret Lao Tzu's words, is that deep interest is primary.
You must be interested in Seeing for it to have any impact on you. You must see its value before it has a chance to rise to awareness on a regular basis. The friends you mention who didn't see its value had no basis for pursuing it beyond the initial glimpse. I think you have to be ready for it, which could mean being fed up (to the back teeth, as Douglas put it) with the conventional way of seeing and considering the world. If you find this is so for you, you may just find that Seeing just snaps into place. It makes sense on first sight. It is immediately satisfying! This kind of connection is all the motivation needed to allow moments Seeing to happen spontaneously, when you don't even expect it. J.C.

Hello friends, I have another question for you.
I feel that I am starting to lose the art of 2-way looking. Perhaps I never had it right. At one time is seemed so intense. Given that practise is something that Douglas Harding has recommended, does anyone see any value in trying to intensify the headless experience by looking deeper into the "space." Should the duration of a headless experiment be prolonged as long as possible? Should a variety of practices/experiments be used rather than only a few?

My problem is that though I can sometimes turn my vision around such that I can be aware of my headlessness, it is an extremely fleeting awareness. Immediately it is replaced by the more "logical" 3rd person perspective, and I start to doubt the whole thing. This is very frustrating.

Perhaps patience is all that is lacking here. Maybe it is too easy and I'm not even aware that I'm seeing it. Is there a sign or a clue? (a bolt of lightning or some glowing space would be helpful). I'll be very grateful for any reply. S.C. USA

Hi S., I like to think of 2-way looking as total seeing, seeing the seer and the scene. Looking seems to imply directing your attention, but it seems to me more like being aware of all that is presented at the moment. It's more like not looking, not directing your attention either inward or outward. Usually we're focused on things outside, what we're doing. Total seeing feels more like relaxing into what is, all of what is, which includes the void or the seer. It's more like unfocusing, relaxing, letting go. Relax and there it is.

This may not be helpful to you. It may just be a way that works for me. If it makes any sense to you, you could give it a try.

Another way that brings me to total seeing is to realize (see) that when I am talking to someone that we are trading faces. I am immediately aware that here where they see my face, I see emptiness and light, the light that includes the (always interesting) face I see. Their face points to my emptiness, all here and now, instantly. And there's no deliberate looking involved. It's just total seeing or awareness of all that's given in the moment. J.C. USA.

Hi S. It is something I've struggled with too, perhaps all of us have. I finally came to the conclusion that Seeing is something I had to give real priority to, that I really had to develop the habit of doing. Douglas seems to say this over and over in all of his books and writings: "Cultivate the habit of seeing." I don't know that there is any intensification of the basic experience which is useful to reach for. Instead, I think it is important to use as many "props" or practices as you can to help you to remember to remember. And develop some of your own. That is the fun of it. It is something you can be creative with and play with. B. USA

I met Douglas many years ago and he did a very neat job of removing my head! However it did not entirely go away. I spend much of my life pretending and believing that I am just one of many humans wandering the surface of this planet. Every now and then something will prompt me to notice that I am not what I thought and I lose my head all over again. I do KNOW what I am, that I am nothing and filled with the world, I can just forget for long periods. So you might describe me as headless "more or less". S.

It is a seeing and not seeing experience with me too.
In fact, in one of Douglas' books he does make reference to the intermittent nature of "seeing", and seems to feel that trying to remind oneself to see misses the point. Once you have "seen", he says, it is never lost, only forgotten at times. Of course, that was always the case. M. USA.

Isn't it true though that we need to develop the habit of Seeing? Douglas mentions this in Head Off Stress—the need to develop a practice. Though I'm still a novice in many respects, it is my experience that the more I do the experiments and consciously attend to Who I really am, the more naturally Seeing is a part of my life. Maybe it is just a matter of remembering to remember so as not to forget. B. USA.

I often have felt headless, more or less, in that I feel the requirement for some regular practise to renew my headlessness. Of course I know that the practise is only a self-reminder of my headless condition—which is a constant fact regardless of whether I practise it or not. Still, if I'm not cognisant of my headlessness, what good is it? And if I cannot be cognisant of it without practise—hadn't I better practise, practise, practise; and do so until it finally sticks? It seems to me that Douglas prescribes practice in that vein:

"There are two main ways of practising: the kind that's set up as a regular daily exercise, and the kind that consists of coping, from your No-thingness or Bottom Line, with whatever stresses it happens to be coming up with at this moment. Admittedly the first is a contrived regime and somewhat artificial, while the second is natural, the essential discipline set up by life itself: the only snag is that one so easily forgets to operate it. It follows that most of us at the start, and some of us for a good part of our lives, can do with a routine, a programme of exercises that will keep us to the work, preparing us when we are least stressed for when we are most stressed. We can choose the conditions and take the time for our homework. Life is less considerate." (Head Off Stress p 299). Douglas goes from there to describe a "weekly regime" of daily exercises.

Douglas also writes (On Having No Head) on the need for "sustained practise" without which "...our initial experience of headlessness is as yet unavailing." (p 77). Also he writes, "Now the 'hard' part begins, which is the repetition of this headless seeing into Nothingness till the seeing becomes quite natural and nothing special at all... At first the essential practise requires much effort of attention. Normally, one takes years or decades to arrive at anything like steady and spontaneous in-seeing" (p 50).

And yet...Douglas writes that "The heartening fact is that true Self-consciousness, when sufficiently valued and established, can be trusted to go on at some level without any fuss or concern about keeping it up deliberately... Your true Nature has its own way of growing more and more blatantly obvious: imperceptibly it takes over. Any attempt to force on it an artificial goal-seeking discipline can only frustrate its maturing, or even become a kind of idolatry—a pursuit of headlessness for its own sake, an attempt to make this No-thing into a much-sought-after Some-thing" (On Having no Head, p 53).

For myself I don't know. Perhaps I still must get to a place where my Self-consciousness is "sufficiently valued and established." I do not yet have the confidence that will allow me to not depend on a routine of exercises such as Douglas describes. Hopefully that confidence will come in time. S. USA.

Wonderful response. It seems to me the two practices you described eventually merge. Suddenly, there is just one. But then there is the need to return to some regular practice, contrived as it may be. It is hard to sustain the simple awareness of Seeing , at least for me, without some regular practice. I wonder if that isn't why some enter monasteries? B. USA.

M., have you never felt the need to practise, even at first (as when you were first exposed to this concept of headlessness)? I am very encouraged by your experience of just letting it happen. I suppose that I could try that...

However I am very new to this. Did you try to gain any headless experience first? Or did you just dive-in at the start and trust it to be there when you needed it? (I'm sure that must be the best way) S. USA.

Hi S. Have I never felt the need to practise? Yes and no. I came to headlessness after having spent a long time meditating in the Buddhist tradition, and not really getting anywhere. So when I "saw" my headlessness after doing the experiments, my reaction was "WOW!WOW!WOW!" All the previous years spent practising hadn't helped. There was a lot of laughing at myself for that wasted time! So, I don't turn to practice for help any more. Let me quote from Douglas' book On Having No Head, p 53:

"The heartening fact is that true Self-consciousness, when sufficiently valued and established, can be trusted to go on at some level without any fuss or concern about keeping it up deliberately. It's rather like being in love. You don't adore that person less if for hours you never recall his or her face or name: it's the commitment which remains there all along, uninterrupted, which matters. So it is with Self-realization. Once it has got hold of you it will not let you go. Your true Nature has its own way of growing more and more blatantly obvious: imperceptibly it takes over. Any attempt to force on it an artificial goal-seeking discipline can only frustrate its maturing, or even become a kind of idolatry, a pursuit of headlessness for its own sake, an attempt to make this No-thing into a much-sought-after Something."

Douglas says it so much better than I can! When I first tried the experiments I did, indeed, repeat them several times to myself because at first I just couldn't believe what I initially "saw", and that "WOW!" experience (or should I say that "NOW!" experience) was still there. Gradually, I accepted that it was always there, sometimes in the background, sometimes in the forefront. I do, at times, remind myself, but reminders don't work for me, I have to "see" directly. M. USA.

Today I am enamored with the newness of seeing. How everything is new in it, how it never gets old. Then when I forget, I completely forget. When it visits again, innocently scooping me away, it is like the first time ever, and I can't believe that I could forget, that I could fail to keep my door open to this awareness all the time. But of course fail I do. E.C. USA

Seeing knocks my door wide open when I least expect it. Sometimes very strongly, sometimes in the middle of my very mind-engaging, intellectual kind of work, which is very refreshing and inspiring. I try to keep open to it while my mind continues to be engaged in its exacting tasks. Very enlivening. E.C. USA

The weeks following the first time the seeing happened to me, it was still a "Now you see it, now you don't" thing. Sometimes I got it and I would try to hang on to it, and it would fade. One day, when I was trying very hard to go back to that place (no-place) where I once had been, all of a sudden, and out of the blue, a long-forgotten memory came to my mind:

When I was somewhere in my teens, and very keen on building myself a face, I thought I had to contrive a style, a trademark, a personality, something that would set me apart from the crowd and make me feel somehow different and special, of course. One day, I was busying myself with that urgent and most momentous task, when the idea occurred to me that if I were to create all those attributes, I'd better find out to whom those attributes were to belong. Where is me? What is it, after all? I then felt the need of finding this thing, not as an abstract idea, but as something I could put my finger on, as if I needed a peg on which to hang all those trappings I was about to manufacture. I sort of went inside, looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found. There was nothing of which I could say "this is me, here is where I am". As a matter of fact, there was nothing at all. All I found was an abysmal emptiness. And I panicked. Instead of relaxing in that void, I totally freaked out, so much that I simply erased that experience from my mind, repressed it, obliterated it as if it had never happened.

That day it all came back to me, in one solid block. And that was the moment when the seeing became steady, and I've never lost it ever since. Now there is no other way of looking at the world, it has become natural. After all, it all boils down to personal, empirical experience, doesn't it? P.Z. Brazil

My biggest problem is in forgetting to See. This is why the Reflections are so helpful. I see that others have also commented on this difficulty and it has been helpful to hear this because otherwise I would think there was something lacking in my efforts. Since the Summer Gathering last summer, there has not been a day that I did not at some point remember to See but then I just as quickly forget. How can it be, I wonder, that I continue to forget Seeing who I really am? Intellectually, I know it's the most important thing in my life but still, I forget to See. Your constant reminders are therefore a great reminder. Tess.

I have read and re-read many of Douglas Harding's books over the last 15 years or so. I find "Head Off Stress" particularly helpful and love his lively writing, and all his stories and jokes. I would say that this "backward seeing" has been the most important lesson of my life and has helped me enormously to keep seeing who I really am which I had only fleetingly glimpsed before. M.

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