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Face to No-Face

Richard Lang

These suggestions, and the following reflections, are a brief exploration of the nature of relationship and love.

This is my experience. See whether you find something similar.


When I look at a friend, I find only one head – hers. There I see her face, here my no-face; there I see her two eyes, here my single Eye; there I see the colour of her cheeks, here my colourless space; there I see movement when she smiles, here stillness. Because I am empty of form here, empty of colour and movement, empty of solidity - empty of everything - I take her in, I receive her, I become her. Vanishing completely here, I appear there as her.

Looking at her face, my gaze travels from her eyes to her forehead, then down to her cheek and mouth, then up to her hair. The more I look, the more there is to see of her. It seems as though I could look forever and still discover new things about her. Can I ever really see her face, ever really know her fully? I don’t think so.

But what about my no-face, my being? It’s the opposite. Seeing the space here, I see all of it, all at once. I cannot gaze first on one part of my being and then move on to another – it isn’t made up of parts. I am one and indivisible.


No distance intervenes between my being and the person in front of me. She is presented here in this spacious awareness. Having no face here, I find no surface that sets us apart, or keeps her out, or fends her off. There's a distance between two faces, but how can there be any distance between her face and this no-thing? There is nowhere to measure from, nothing here I can pin down or attach my tape measure to. She is not even a fraction of a millimetre away. How intimate this is.


Yes, I experience lots of sensations, thoughts and feelings, but they don’t make up a head here – a small, solid ‘thing’ inside which I’m living. I’m uncontained, light and airy, and my thoughts, feelings and body sensations are at large in this airy space. My friend is also present in this space. Living inside no box here, I am capacity for my mind, my body, the person in front of me, everything.


My consciousness has no boundaries. It is not inside my head. My head – what I experience of it - is inside consciousness!
What about that person’s consciousness? Is her consciousness separate from mine, different from mine? Where is it? Behind her eyes, inside her head?

I will never find her consciousness by peering into her eyes. All I see there are shapes and colours, given in my consciousness. As sensitive to her as I may be, open to deep things about her, I experience only her appearance - and her description of her experience. Is her deepest being closed to me, then?

No, it isn’t, for her consciousness is not hidden behind her eyes, behind her face, but is on show this side of her eyes and face. Consciousness is not inside anyone’s head. It is uncontained. All things are inside it. It is not divided up with each creature inheriting a slice. It is one and indivisible – self-evidently. When you see it, you see all of it – you are all of it. I find my friend’s consciousness where I am, this side of her face, because my consciousness and her consciousness are one and the same. My consciousness is not separate from her – it is wide-open to her, there is no dividing line.

(If I ask her whether her consciousness is contained within anything, she tells me it isn’t. Her description corresponds with my experience of consciousness.)


Yet I do not see her view of the world, do not experience her thoughts and feelings, do not feel sensation when she touches her brow. Looking down I see her body, separate from mine. Though there is only one single Eye, only one consciousness, this consciousness embraces two of us here.
And when I ask her, I find the same is true for her, except that she is room for the two of us from her point of view. Two views out from one consciousness.

I don’t pretend to understand how the One is also Many, how there come to be countless views out from this one single Eye. But I don’t understand many things that I manage to live with and that are, in fact, the source of deep joy. How did being conjure Itself out of non-being, out of less than nothing? No one knows. But here I AM! On top of that, It divided into Many whilst remaining One. Thank goodness! Can you imagine how boring and lonely it would be if there had only ever been One, forever and ever?

Being awake to Who I really am, I see that other people are both myself and not myself. The One that I am has room for the Many. There are countless individuals, each one of whom is utterly unique and independent, yet each one at centre is the One Spirit, whole and complete.

Can you imagine a better, more beautiful arrangement?


When I awaken to how things really are I don’t suddenly stop identifying with my appearance. I’m simply conscious that my face is not here but out there in others and in the mirror. But it’s still my face. Though I’m capacity for every face I meet, recognizing that all faces are my own, the face I see in the mirror is special to me. It’s the one by which everyone recognizes me, the one by which I recognize myself as a person, the one I need to live in this world.
It’s as if I’m in disguise, like a king dressed as an ordinary citizen so I can live undetected in my kingdom. I know Who I really am, enjoy my royal status, have all my powers – I move mountains and conjure things up out of nowhere effortlessly - yet I keep all this hidden from others. They see only my humanity, not my divinity. Which is just the way I want it. (If people could see me moving mountains, the attentions of the paparazzi would be overwhelming!)

So although I appear outwardly as an ordinary citizen, inwardly I am the One, which of course means I am capacity for everyone around me, even though they do not see it. Thus I am conscious of meeting myself in others all the time – others who are also the One in disguise.

Sometimes I meet people who are also aware they are the One in disguise. What a joy to share this secret!


What difference does being face to no-face make to the way I live my life, to the way I relate to others?
No longer are others only “other”, they are also myself. The extent to which I take this fact seriously will affect the way I relate to “others”. I can no longer pretend that deep down I am separate from you. Defenceless, open, empty, my being receives and welcomes you.

This inner oneness, this inner welcome, is the foundation of love. Empty, I embrace you. Taking you right into the very heart of my being, I become you - from my point of view. Your being emerges in my being, flowing from the creative source within me. You are born from and die back into the ground of being that I am. You live your life within my being. At the deepest level I am responsible for you. At the same time I exercise no power over you, for as no-thing I have no way of controlling you. Though you may feel constrained by many things, you are not constrained by being.

This inner oneness, this taking absolute responsibility and giving absolute freedom, this unconditional welcome, is love. Love is being. It is always present, stable, reliable. It is the ground from which the expressions of love, and indeed all expressions, spring, and the ground into which they die back. During the times when you do not experience love outwardly, this inward love is still present. In the times when you are separated from a loved one, the love that is both your being and theirs is not a hairsbreadth away from you. Even the death of a dear one does not separate you from their innermost being, nor will your death separate you from them.

Love is what you are, eternally. It is your timeless being. Be aware of this love. Rest in this love. Act from this love – or let it act through you. Depend on this love. It will not let you down.

Is that a guarantee? How do I know that love will not let you down? Well, love for sure will never desert you. There’s nowhere for it to go. But will it take care of you? There’s only one way to find out!


But what if the person in front of you is someone you don’t like, or wants to attack you? Do I still welcome them? Do I still ‘love’ them?
My Oneness with another person is in the depths of my Being. This Oneness is never threatened by anything happening on the surface. If someone behaves badly towards me, I am still face to No-face with them, still Capacity for them. My Consciousness is theirs too. This is the truth. But as a self-conscious adult I am also aware of the boundary between my body and theirs, aware of the distinction between my life and theirs. Oneness and difference co-exist. So I don’t have to agree with what others do or say, just because I am them deep down, and I can take action to defend myself or those around me if need be. When I see Who I really am, I do not suddenly regress to a baby-like lack of self-awareness, an ignorance of boundaries and individual identity. Nor am I necessarily some kind of saint who, totally detached from desires, preferences, even life, would happily let someone walk over him. I am an individual and I can stand up for myself, I can express my own unique voice – I hope.

And yet, when someone is behaving badly towards me – and I’m standing up for myself - it’s still true that in the Ground of my Being I am Capacity for that person. Attending to and relying on this Ground, conscious of my Unity with that person, yet aware of the need to take care of myself, what will I do? I don’t know until the situation arises. Being Awake does not introduce more rules of behaviour. It awakens you to a wise and loving place within you on which you can call. Conscious of the Source, find out what you do. Each person’s experience will be different.


When you get face to face with someone, anyone, someone you love — begin with someone you love — what a joy it is to see you are not face to face with that one. How could you be? Get opposite to someone, even someone you don't love very much, and see how impossible it would be to have your face and that face in the same eyeful. You have got to have one or the other. Your own face in the mirror or that one. The face to face thing is the biggest lie that ever was and is universal. I say, Stop it. Get in front of someone and see that you can't be face to face with that one. We use the paper bag to make this clear. You don't need the damned paper bag. Just get in front of a face and see that you have got it because you are empty for it. (From an interview with Douglas Harding)
See also article by Douglas Harding: Confrontation

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