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From 'Celebrating Who We Are'

by Richard Lang

Richard: It’s at this point I realise I haven’t thought about this workshop at all! 

Sarah: Nice. You are going to be surprised too. 

Richard: Yes, I am! Alright, this workshop is about who we really are—about seeing who we really are and a bit about understanding who we really are, but the understanding is going to be different for each of us. 

Probably most of you have heard about your True Self in some form or other. This workshop is a modern approach to the question "Who am I?" You are going to take a fresh look at yourself. You are going to look at the one sitting on your chair—from your point of view. You have all the information you need for this investigation because the subject of the investigation is on your chair!

I’d like you to notice something very simple and obvious about yourself—you can’t see your own face. Can anyone see their own face? I can’t. There’s one face I do not see in this group and it’s Richard’s. There’s one face you can’t see in this group and it’s yours.

We start visually—noticing you can’t see your face. We are bringing our attention to this simple fact. This is so simple you can’t get it wrong. The whole day is about bringing our attention to this perspective—to what we are from our own point of view. Today I am here as a friend to share with you this experience of who we are and to explore our different reactions to it. 

Hold your hands out in front of you like this. You see your hands and the room beyond.

Bring your hands slowly towards you. Your hands get bigger. 

Move them past either side of your head. Your fingers disappear, then your hands disappear, all the way to your wrists. 

Now bring your hands forward so you can see them again. They come out of ‘nothing’. I call this the Great Void, the Emptiness in which everything is happening, the Silence in which all sounds are arising. You can call it what you like. Most of the time it means the world to me, although sometimes it doesn’t mean anything at all! Today isn’t about taking on board a particular meaning, it’s about exploring our unique reactions to this experience. You can’t get it wrong. You can’t get either the experience or your reaction wrong. 

Let’s do that again. This is meditation. It’s not something you learn. It’s not something you see once and then just think about or remember, it’s something you keep paying attention to. You keep looking for yourself. This is attending to your view of you, the First Person view. Your view of you is going to be different from what everybody else sees of you. 

Move your hands past either side of your head again. Your hands get huge and then, without any pain, dissolve into nothing. You are guiding your attention to the place you are looking out of. You are looking as if for the first time at this secret place. How clear and empty and spacious it is. How still and quiet. Now bring your hands forward—magically they emerge out of Nothing, out of this mysterious Awareness. This is the most obvious thing in the world. You couldn’t get more obvious than this.

Dale: The first time I did that experiment, perhaps ten years ago—I think it was in Douglas’ book that I first heard about it—it was an immediate shift. I felt I had put on Awareness. All of a sudden it brought that from the background to the foreground. Undeniable. 

Richard: Yes. Putting on clear, boundless Awareness. Hold your hands out in front of you again and look at the space between your hands. It’s a small space. As you bring your hands towards you the space between your hands gets wider and wider until you get to the moment just before you dissolve your hands into the Emptiness. The space between your hands is now as wide as the room. Is that true? Yes. And when you put your hands right into the Emptiness, then the boundary goes and the Space goes on for ever. Infinitely wide. 

This is a non-verbal experience. It doesn’t have to mean anything. It’s also a non-emotional experience. It’s not about feeling good or bad. You will have a different reaction to this experience from me. Brilliant! There isn’t a right reaction, a right thought or understanding or feeling. It’s a neutral experience. On the one hand that doesn’t sound very attractive, but on the other hand, as I think we may discover, it is one of its great strengths. It is not dependent on what you feel. 

You don’t have to believe anything I say. You are the authority on you. We have to use words to communicate but the words are not the thing. I might call this the Void, the Great Space, Emptiness, the True Self, the Openness here, this Clarity, Stillness, the place I am looking out of, my No-face, my No-head... Because we have got the experience, because you can’t get it wrong, we are free to use different words—we don’t need to get stuck on any one way of describing it. 

How long does it take you to notice you cannot see your face? How quick can you get Home? Have you seen the adverts for cars that tell you how fast they can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph? Of course, the faster the better. The Headless Way is like a fast car! It’s a fast-track spiritual Way. Put your hands into the Void. That didn’t take long, did it? The experiments are a breakthrough. The Headless Way is unique—it has experiments that other spiritual paths do not use. We charge a lot to use them—all the experiments are patented. I’m joking! 

We start visually but we will also look into this in the context of the other senses, how it relates to thoughts and feelings, how it works out in our lives, how to keep this going and that kind of thing. We’ve got the whole day. We will stay with the visual experiments a bit longer—it’s a good place to start because it’s easy to communicate who we really are using vision. 

Right from the beginning you can be aware of something that comes with this observation—because you don’t see your face, what do you see instead? 

David: All the faces around you. 

Richard: Yes. We call it ‘trading faces’. You’ve got Richard’s face now and I’ve got yours. Whenever you look at anyone you take on their face and give them your own. Without effort. Without even having to understand anything. It’s just the way it is. You are built Open for others. Wide-open, clear, in a completely safe way. This is non-verbal and obvious. You don’t need to understand anything to see it, do you? No. You don’t have to feel anything in particular to see it. It’s incredible. It’s brilliant. 

Dale: What I appreciate the most in this particular approach is the immediacy of the recognition. To start the journey from that place of No-place is essential because the confusion that comes with being identified as a seeker and all that is completely dispelled right from the immediacy of seeing this for oneself. The non-verbal pointing is wonderful. Then the deconstructive enquiry and everything else that you hear afterwards makes sense. But when you don’t have the direct experience, that stuff stays out there as just thought. It doesn’t penetrate to the core. 

Richard: Thank you. We’re going to have an ongoing conversation about this all day. We’re going to do lots of experiential things and I hope you feel welcome to share your reactions as we go along because it’s inspiring for everyone to hear different people’s reactions. The One likes to hear itself speaking with many voices! There will be lots of opportunities to share as we go through the day. As I say, everyone will have a different reaction. I welcome that. We are not here to agree. Let’s get that out of the way! 

Anne: I like that. 

Richard: Especially with me—don’t agree with me! What we are primarily here to do is to attend to what it’s like to be oneself. You can’t get that wrong. You are in the perfect location to see what you are at Centre. This approach is experimental, it is modern, it is simple and direct. And the best way of hanging out with this during this workshop is to be open-minded. Relax as much as you can and be open-minded and curious. 

As I’ve said, I will be encouraging you to use your voices today, to affirm your observation of who you really are in public. Awareness of who we really are grows when we bring it onto the front burner and articulate it. Do you see your own face right now?
Michael: No!

Richard: Do you see everyone else’s instead?

Michael: Yes!

Richard: I’m not asking you to say anything that isn’t true. If it’s not true for you, don’t say it. Obviously others can see your face and you can see it in the mirror, and you can imagine it, but you can’t see it at your Centre. I can’t see mine here at my Centre. This is obvious stuff, isn’t it? Incredibly obvious. We’re not starting with a difficult, mystical theory. We are doing something a five-year-old could do. 

Obviously you can see your nose. If you close one eye your nose is rather large—in fact you’ve got the largest nose in the room! It goes from the ceiling to the floor. But it isn’t attached to anything. It emerges out of nothing. 

If anyone at this point is thinking, "Oh my God, what on earth have I come to today?"—it’s very simple. We are observing what it’s like to be oneself. We are noticing the difference between our public identity which is what we look like to others, and our private identity which is what we are for ourselves. Only you can see what you are for yourself. It’s a secret thing. One reason I might undervalue my True Self is because no one else can see it. I think I must be wrong and everyone else must be right because I’m the only one that can see my facelessness. Everyone else tells me I have a face here. There are twenty of you in this room and one of me so I’m outnumbered. I get talked out of the reality of my facelessness. But now I’m putting the record straight. You are right from there, I do have a face for you—and I am right from here, I don’t have one for me. This difference between your private and your public identity is incredible. Looking out from my No-face I take on your faces, I take on the world—I’m Space for the whole world! 

Let me make clear from the beginning that seeing who you really are is not necessarily a ‘wow’ experience. It’s simply being attentive to what it’s like to be you, whatever you are feeling. If you are not having a ‘wow’ experience it’s okay, you are still seeing who you really are.
Joy: I am definitely missing something.

Richard: I don’t think you are. Can you see your face?

Joy: No.

Richard: That’s it. As I’ve said, we are distinguishing between that simple observation and how we react to it or what it means to us. You’ve got the experience but what it means to you will be different from what it means to me or Dale or anyone else. It might even mean nothing to you. So we distinguish between our reactions and the experience. The idea of the workshop is to approach this experience from different angles, not just visual but also non-visual, and hang out with it for the day and see what it means to us—if anything. But I assure you, you have got the experience because you cannot see your face. When you look at me now, whose face do you see? 

Joy: Yours. 

Richard: Yes. So we say we are ‘face-to-No-face’. Is that true? Yes. So you have Richard’s face now and not Joy’s, yes? That’s rather beautiful, isn’t it?

Dale: I don’t know if Joy remembers—one time I had a powerful experience of the face-to-No-face experience. I was looking in the mirror and suddenly I had the deep experience that there was no head here and there was a face there. It really settled in. Then I noticed the characteristics of that one in the mirror in a very detached way. Then I apologised to Joy saying, "I’m sorry that you have to see that one because I don’t!" I felt empathy for her! I get the better part of the trade! 

Richard: Yes, like that limerick attributed to Woodrow Wilson – 

As a beauty I’m not a star –
There are others more handsome by far – 
But my face, I don’t mind it,
For I am behind it:
It’s those in front get the jar.

I’m going to place this experience of facelessness in various contexts. First, consider what the great spiritual traditions say. When you boil them down to their essence they are saying one thing, which is that right where you are is a miracle. This Miracle was not born and won’t die. Everything comes and goes except this Miracle, the Miracle of Being—the Miracle of the One Self. The great mystics claim that you are that One Self, that Miracle—within you is the Kingdom of Heaven, God, the Alone. What an astonishing claim! Today in this workshop we are testing that claim. The great mystics say that most people are not aware of who they really are. They say it’s incredible that people are not aware of it because it’s so obvious—you must be drunk not to see it. But if you do see it, and if you live consciously from who you really are, it is life-changing. That’s the promise. It is up to each of us to test that claim, that promise. 

(This book is the edited transcripts of many workshops with Richard Lang combined into the form of one workshop. First published in 2016.)

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