The Headless Way
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Here is the transcript of a workshop Douglas Harding gave in Sydney in 1992. For the transcript of a London workshop with Harding in 2000, go to London Workshop.

For videos of Douglas Harding that you can download for a small fee, visit our VOD channel.  

Sydney Workshop                                   
Led by Douglas Harding (1992)


It sounds absolutely crazy doesn't it. A chap coming here and advocating decapitation, headlessness. It sounds ridiculous, crazy. But is it? This book I wrote, On Having No Head,—that was a bit misleading, because of course I have a head! The point is, where do I keep that darn thing? My impression is that you are stuck with that darn thing now, and it's in your sights now, and you are in receipt of it.

On Having No Head—does that sound crazy to you, or does it ring bells in you? I should have included one more word in the title to that book. It should have read On Having No Head here. Because of course I've got millions of heads—one in each reflecting surface, in other people's cameras, I guess in you at this moment. That thing is my appearance, my trademark—it's out there, my appearance. It's what I look like...

What I should have called the book was On Having No Head Here. I swear to you, cross my heart, there is nothing here in your way, I am full of you here at this moment, I have your faces for which I thank you from my heart. I have the room, I have the whole scene in my space here. And I have nothing here to keep you out with, thank the Lord. Nothing whatever.

Now, in order to join the human race, which we've all done—and we had to, and the human race comes with many blessings like language, electric light and all sorts of things—we had to join this club. We had to play a game to join this club. And what was this game? What was the fiction? It is that we are what we look like!

Now, I can tell you that I am not what I look like! You've got what I look like and I've got what I am, and they are totally different. I think—surely every heart in the room responds to this—I am not what I look like. What I am is different from what other people are picking up. What I am at zero inches from myself has got to be different from what I look like at a hundred inches, hasn't it? It's all a case, really, of looking not only at what we are looking at but at what we are looking out of. Because what we are looking out of is bang, plumb centre in the middle of our universe, and we better be right about what is central in our universe. We had better be right about that, don't you think?

An apple is only as good as its core. What you are looking out of is the core and centre of your universe, and your universe is arranged around you like a vast onion. In the outer layers of the onion are heavenly bodies, stars and planets and so on. In the nearer layers out there are earthly bodies like clouds and mountains and so on. Then coming down further we have human beings. I have now in this onion layer of mine, the human layer—I have all you wonderful friends. It's marvellous. And then I come down further and nearer and I come to my feet and my shirt front. Here I find I stop. This is the end of the world for me, and above here I find you. And I swear, cross my heart—and you know I'm not lying—I have nothing here to keep you out with.
Now it seems to me that society runs on something called confrontation, head-on collision. The fiction that we have something where we are, a solid lump—for keeping others out with—my experience, and I'm sure the experience of every one of you, before the evening is out, not to mention tomorrow and Sunday—every one of us is going to have a look at what it's like right where we are, what we are looking out of, and to check whether we are busted wide-open for the world and each other, or whether we are living in boxes, closed against the world, peeking as it were out of a meat-ball, through two tiny windows in a meat-ball. What are we looking out of?

You know, to overlook what is plumb in the centre of our world is not very sensible. We better be right about what is at the centre. The joke is—there's a funny joke here—that we are all doing it right. All of us are living from the way we are. We are living from who we are. We couldn't live from this much advertised meat-ball at the centre of our world. How could we? We are not shut up in a box there are we, in the dark and wet interstices of a lump of stuff! What are you looking at me out of at this time? I mean everybody believes—I mean in order to join the human race there are all sorts of little small print things we have to take on board, and one of them is that we are looking at the world out of two eyes. Two! Well, for a start, are you looking at me, on present evidence, out of two peep-holes in a meat-ball? You see it shows, however sane we are about our relationship with the world, we go quietly crazy when it comes to the centre of our world. Where are we coming from? What are we looking out of? Another way of putting it is, who are we really? What are we really, in our own first hand experience? It seems to me that in order to join the human race we got terribly intimidated. We took everybody's word for what it's like right where we are at a distance of 0 inches from ourselves. We took everybody's word for what it's like right where we are, except our own word. Which is ridiculous, because nobody has been where you are at this time. Nobody has ever been in that place but you.

You are the sole and final authority on what you are looking out of. And don't let Douglas tell you, don't let anybody tell you what it's like there. You are the authority on one thing, and one thing alone, and that is what you are as 1st Person singular. in your own experience now. You are the final authority on that. I am the final authority on what I am looking out of. Just for your encouragement, let me tell you that I am the exact opposite of what I was told I was. I'm going to ask you, presently, to check up whether this is so. Whether you are in the same similar, curious, but marvellous condition!

But before we do the experiments which are the nitty gritty of this evening, just a little more spiel now about what we are up to here today and indeed tomorrow and Sunday—what the whole occasion is in aid of—what we are up to. A little spiel, as a first piece of the evening. And then we are going to do a few very simple un-embarrassing experiments. Tomorrow we shall do them in more detail, and with some gadgetry. This evening we don't need gadgetry. We are just going to do a sufficient number of very simple experiments which, if we would do them, we will come to see who we really really are. And I promise you, everyone will get it—unless you are actually asleep. Everyone will get it who will do the experiments. You don't need to go the Himalayas, you don't need to do anything, you don't need to be a nice person, a lovely person, a charming, a spiritual person—you could be as horrible a person as I am and you can still see this, because it's so embarrassingly obvious. It's ridiculously obvious. It's a kind of insult to you to come and talk about this because it's so incredibly obvious. Everyone will get it. And I say that the dear Lord, or whoever is responsible for this universe, has so arranged it that what I most need is most available—if only I am simple enough, almost idiotic, naive enough, simple enough, childlike enough to look at what's given—in all innocence at this moment, dropping memory, imagination, all that stuff,. Just take a look at what you are looking out of.

So the first part of the evening, as I say, is the spiel that I am now engaged in. The second part is the experiments. There won't be very many. There don't need to be., All of them lead one home to the place one never left. You see, we are really eccentric, looking at ourselves in imagination from about a yard away. All our experiments are really bringing us from a yard away right to where we are. You know, we hear about spiritual paths, the Eightfold Path, all sorts of spiritual paths, for which I have very great respect. I call this one the one metre unholy path. Well, it may be, the plebeian path, ordinary path, to who we are. Coming back from being eccentric to be centric, centred. Everyone of us will get it by virtue of these experiments.

So that is the second part, the nitty gritty of the evening. Then we must conclude the evening with two other things. One is some indication of how, having seen this terribly obvious thing, how we use it, how we cultivate it, how we live it. What use is it in our lives, to live from this Openness, this No-headedness, this Clarity, this absolutely obvious space that we are at—how we live that, what pay off it's likely to bring? I am nervous about pay off, for it will differ in every case. But we could just perhaps speculate, about why we should have a look at this place.

And the last part of the evening will be questions. So I hope you have questions. Bring them up. They can be as straight and as critical as you please. I always find the questions bring up things that I forgot to mention which are important. So that is the shape of the evening, and I hope that you will agree to that shape.

First of all, what am I up to here tonight with you in Sydney, and what do I hope you are up to?

Well, I would call it coming to our senses. Some American friends say, "Telling it like it is". Just really having a look at what's given in our seat at this time at a distance of 0 inches from oneself—what one is looking out of. This means starting all over again and daring to ask this simple question: What is it like being me at this time? Who am I in my own first hand experience when I stop allowing people to tell me what I'm like? Because how can anybody tell you what you're like when they are six feet away? They are too far off to know what you are like.

I'm not talking about your psychology, I'm not talking about your spiritual condition, I'm not talking about anything which is esoteric and difficult, I'm talking in terms of whiskers and teeth and eyes and all that stuff. I'm talking about very simple things—colours, shapes, things like that. What are we looking out of?

It seems to me that to join the human race, as I said before, we tell ourselves the most extraordinary story. I repeat it—I am what I look like. I am here what I look like to you. What I look like to you you are welcome to. That's your problem, you see. I swear to you that in every respect I am the opposite of that here. So when I take other people's word for what's here I'm really in deep deep trouble. Now all of us have trouble in our lives, severe problems in our lives, and I suggest that the root cause of our avoidable problems is that we lie and lie and lie about who we are to ourselves. We are intimidated into believing that we are, right where we are, what we look like in the mirror. When you go from here I would recommend an experience which is a very important one and we shall be enjoying it tomorrow and Sunday more because then we shall have mirrors.

You know, when you were very very little, when you were a baby, you looked in the mirror and that was your friend, that was baby. Every mum and most of the dads here know that when a baby of two or three looks in the mirror it doesn't even dream that that is itself. That is baby, a friend, a little playmate in the mirror. You looked in the mirror and that was someone else. For a start, it had to be someone else—it was looking the wrong way wasn't it! It was looking here instead of out. And it was too far away—it was four feet away—and it was solid and opaque. Do you think a little baby is solid and opaque for itself? Not at all. We were born very sane and what we did to join the human race was we agreed with people who said—who told me that it was Douglas in the mirror. "That's you in the mirror." And they kept telling me that it was me in the mirror.

What they did was tell me that I am here what I look like over there, six feet away. That is crazy. All of us had to join the human race at this enormously expensive cost of saying that I am what I look like. I am here at 0 inches what I look like over there in the mirror and in people's experience and in their cameras. So to join the human race and to become fully human we had to play a game. The game we played was, in imagination, to get hold of the face in the mirror, turn it round because it's the wrong way round, enlarge it because it is far too small, and bring it up our arm here and shove it on here—and think we've done it. Have we done it? Well I suggest you go from here this evening and look in your mirror to see what you are not like! You can look in your mirror and say "Thank God I'm not like that!"

You see, the very thing that took that thing and put it on here, the very thing that shrunk me from being world-wide into being a box, now takes the box off me and shows me where I keep that.

When we were very little, a little baby you know, people say, "Dear little baby". Douglas was—82 years ago—a tiny dear little Douglas. Do you think that Douglas for himself at that time—I for myself at that time—was little? Certainly not. I was boundless. Admittedly my universe was a great big buzzing confusion, wasn't it. Well, unorganised—but boundless. And then, to join the human race I had to agree that that was little Douglas in the mirror. That really was me in the mirror. And what did I do? To join the human race I got shrunk from being world-wide without any boundaries to being that thing.

Now we all have joined the human race and paid that huge price. And this evening we are going to be better members of the human race and withdraw our subscription, and be Who we are instead of what we look like to other people six feet away. I'm going to ask you, presently, to have a look, by virtue of one or two tiny experiments, to really have a fresh look at what you are looking out of. You are the authority. Don't believe a thing I say. Test it. You are the authority. Don't let Douglas con you further. You've been conned, I've been conned. And what is the con? That I am what I look like. We are going to withdraw our subscription and be Who we are tonight.

Why Should We Look At Who We Really Are?

Why should we do this? Why should we have a look at Who we are? Before we do the experiments, just one or two reasons why we should investigate this question of Who we really really are.

Well, I can give you some of the reasons why I'm interested in finding out who I really really am. I used to teach comparative religion once, and I found that at the heart of all the great religions, covered up, denied, but certainly somewhere lurking at the heart of all the great religions, was a staggering proposition, a staggering proposition—unbelievable in its blessing and happiness and, what shall I say, its daring. An extraordinary, daring proposition, at the heart of all the great religions. And what was that proposition? It is that nearer to you than everything else, more you than you, what you are looking out of, what you are most possessed of, is not a product of the world, it is the Origin of the world. And it has these characteristics of being boundless, absolutely clear like space, awake to itself, and it is not a thing at all. It is awareness of itself as No-thing, but is where everything comes from.

Now, to join the human race, what we do is to bung up this place with a meatball. And that is where, nearer than hands and feet says Tennyson, is the One we really really are, right here. This One has no contamination, no boundaries, no defects, no death, no stress, but is awake to itself as Capacity for the whole world. Empty of itself, full of the whole world. Nearer to you than all else is the Origin of the world. And this is what you are looking out of at this moment. You are looking at the world from the point of view of the Origin of the world and not from the point of view of a product of the world.

These great religions say that only the Origin of the world can view the world at all, let alone truly. And what you are looking out of is the One who is viewing the world from the Origin of the world, from the awareness which is the Origin of the world. And what we have to do and what we are going to do tonight is to turn our attention round 180 degrees and see whether these people, the founders of the great religions, knew what they were talking about. Check up whether they knew what they were talking about.

So this is my first reason for looking to see what it's like here, nearer than breathing, closer than hands and feet, nearer says the Koran than my neck vein—nearer than one's jugular vein is Allah, the Origin of all things. Were they talking nonsense? Come on! You've happened! You've occurred! Are you going to let this opportunity go by of having a look at what has occurred? You know I'm sure none of us is so chicken-hearted as to let this opportunity pass. The thing we least value, I think, but is most precious, is that we can say, I AM. I've happened. I've occurred. Most of us live and die without daring to look at what has occurred, in our own experience. We take other people's word for it. Tonight we are going to have the courage, the enterprise, to look and see Who has occurred, and check to see if those people were right. Or whether they were talking nonsense about your looking out of the Origin of the world and not from a product of the world. Out of No-thing but Awakeness.

Well, that is the tradition. It seems to me that it's worth checking up on, devoting two hours of our valuable time, to just having a look to see if we are really unspeakably blessed, unspeakably happy in this. You know, come on! What would you want for yourself more than this?—to be the eternal ineffable Mystery from which the world comes. Not a thing, not a decaying meatball—a very decaying, very stale meatball in my case! Come on! Which would you rather have? Look, if I'm that one I see in the mirror I've had it, haven't I? I mean, it's been dying for 82 years, that thing in the mirror. Every time I look it's nearer to death. It's skull-shaped. And yet I have the crazyness, the ill-will towards myself to get a hold of that meatball, turn it round, and bring it up here. And it's crazy.

Is it any wonder that I have problems when I do such an extraordinary thing? Go home from this meeting and look in the mirror to see what you are not like! Because that thing is a perisher. It's bio-degradable. Are you bio-degradable where you are? Look, you happened!

We're all going to have the courage and the enterprise to look at what's happened. Partly because it's been advertised for the last two and a half thousand years that there's the treasure, the supreme treasure, nearer to you than all else. Partly because, quite apart from any pay-off or promise, you are going to have a go at finding out for yourself—because you've happened. What has happened?

Another obvious reason, I think, for going in to this together, tonight, is that we're in business. We are in the difficult business of living. And when you are in business the first thing is to get your facts right. If things seem to be going wrong, and—panic stations—we'll sack these people, this work force, and open this new organisation, and try some new models—all panic stations. No. If you are in trouble in business you look to the facts, you see what the facts are. Get the facts right before you act. Well, if I'm lying and lying to myself about Who I am, then I'm in deep trouble because I've got my basic facts wrong. I'm living from a pack of lies, and that doesn't work. Living from Who I really really am does promise to be more efficient. And I can tell you from my own experience that whatever I do from the illusion that there is a Douglas meatball here doing it and controlling it—is rather badly and very badly done. And whatever I do from the experience that here is not Douglas' meatball, any meatball, but Space for the whole world to happen in, is better done. There's more energy, more love. It's obviously not going to be perfect, but it is going to be a lot better done.

So if we want to be efficient, and live from the way we are instead of the way we are told we are—and the way we are I say is inconceivably blessed, inconceivably happy. I mean, the world is a pretty miserable place in so many ways. I say, there are two worlds and they are vastly different.

There is a world which is seen from a position of deep illusion, and delusion, as if from a lump here, as if from a sticky wet dark eight inch box, with two peep holes in it. It's crazy. But a world seen from that position is a horrible place. It's hell. It really is hell.

Now a world seen from the only place it only can be seen from, namely from this Clarity here, is a loved-world. It is a world I am—I'm taking it in. It's a loved world. I've nothing to keep it out with, since one is built for loving.

More Reasons For Looking Afresh At Who We Really Are

I say we're built busted wide-open for each other and the world, and when we are busted, as indeed we all are, busted wide-open for the world, then the world we perceive is a world we are not separate from. It is a loved world. It is a world in which colours, tastes, smells, shapes and so on, are different. Everything is different, and yet it is the same. It is not a world without troubles but it is a world that is a loved world, because the world is seen from its Origin by its Origin, by you. And it is a different world altogether.

So here are some reasons for looking to see Who you are at this time. Now I really must say again—You are the authority. Don't believe anything that Douglas tells you tonight or tomorrow or Sunday. It's all for testing. Dare to be your own authority. I dare to be my own authority on where I'm coming from. You're the authority on where you are coming from, on where you are looking out of, and I think you will find, as I do, that every darned thing you have been told about who you are, where you are, is exactly the opposite of the way it is. And if that is so, no wonder we're in trouble.

I am the exact opposite of what I've been told I am. And I'll just give you a quick rundown, not for you to believe, but for you to check to see if you are in the same curious condition. A rundown of what I find here which is the opposite of what I'm supposed to find here. Well, I'm told that I'm looking at you out of two tiny windows. I find a vast window here without a frame. If I look, no frame, no two windows, just one huge window. I was told I was opaque here, solid....

(End of Side One of Audiotape 1...)

Side Two

I was told some other things, very strange things. I was told that I came here to Sydney from Brisbane and from Lismore, that we moved along the road and Australia was stable. No earthquakes, no motion, not a leaf stirred really on account of our motion. And we came here along the road at about 100 kilometres an hour—wonderfully driven I was by my dear friend there. They told me that. It was not so. When I tell the truth, I sit in my car and Australia dances. Everything is on the move—the trees and the houses and the hills and the lampposts. In Sydney the buildings are dancing away, if I tell the truth.

Why is this important? It is important because of Who we really are. There was a Greek philosopher, Aristotle, and he said that God is the unmoved mover of the world. Well, get in your car, get in your landrover and put your hands on the wheel. If you drive the landrover you are just a human being. But if you really look at what is happening you will see that you are not driving a landrover. You are driving the land. And that's different. Who can do that but Who you really really are. It's awesome. Who you really really are is awesome. Blessed.

And it's a matter of life and death to get right. You know, at 82 I really have to look seriously into this matter, into who dies and what dies. And the guy I see in the mirror is, as I say, on the way out. But am I like that here? Is anything perishable here? This is the unmoved mover of the world! This is the One I find here that has no boundaries, the One who says "I AM" here.

Well, I am Douglas, but Douglas is out there in the mirror. This is so absolutely embarrassingly obvious when we look. I mean, coming here and sharing this with you is almost insulting you, it's so obvious. But we've just trained ourselves systematically to suppress the obvious and the simple. If it's simple we don't want it because we think it's not deep enough. On the contrary, only the simple is profound. And if it's complicated, look out, because it's shallow. This is so incredibly obvious—you will see, in a moment when we do the experiments.

I'm just going through one or two reasons for having a look at What is given at this time. I wonder what other reasons you might have? I think to have problems helps. You know, to have problems with the guy in the mirror, to have problems with who we are told we are—to have human problems up to a certain point is extremely helpful. Because then I have to look for the place where there are no problems.

I believe I am here this evening to talk about stress, which I remember to do from time to time! Very rarely, but I do! The thing is, what do we do about stress? Well, some people say, "You want to get rid of stress, Douglas". I say No! On the contrary, I'm all for it—in the right place. It seems to me that this world, this onion that one is the centre of, runs on stress like cars run on petrol. And to get rid of stress there would be to get rid of the world. Stress is marvellous in the right place—the world runs on stress. The question is, are you involved in that stress, out there as a thing? Certainly the one I see in the mirror—well he is out there in the stressful world. But when I look Here I find nothing to be stressed. I find Here at the Centre of my universe a place where stress and death cannot get in. They just can't get in Here. It's like the eye of a cyclone or storm. The eye is perfectly still, perfectly tranquil—the eye of the storm. Now are you, perhaps, the Eye of the storm? We are going to test this, tonight and tomorrow and Sunday.

So these are some of the reasons for looking to see Who we are. And the last one is that we have problems. There is advertised to be, and I swear there is, a place where problems cannot enter. Now if your problems are too severe, then it's not very helpful. And if they are not severe enough that is very unhelpful too. So if you have a really good massive bunch of problems, that's extremely good for seeing Who you are, because then you've got real motivation for looking at the place where problems cannot enter. And I say, in my own experience, when I look Here, this place is death-free, stress-free, problem-free, because there is nothing here to be stressed, or to die, or to be problematical. And it's what I'm looking out of. And for my money it is not a product of the world, it is the Origin of the world. This is deeply traditional.

And also available for us in a more de-mythologised form tonight. What was advertised to be the prerogative and the wonderful vision of a very very few people who had learned to meditate in a certain way, or who had spent all their lives folding their legs in excruciating granny knots and things, and was advertised for the very very rare people—I say, it is now available to all of us just by looking, to see What we are looking out of. The experiments are going to make it clear.
These are some of the reasons for having a look. I repeat, my own experience—don't believe me, but test for yourself—my own experience is that I am exactly the opposite of what I was told I was. To join the human race I was told what I was, and they got it all wrong. They told me I moved about the world—and I never moved. They told me I was small—and I have no boundaries. They told me I'm looking out of two peep-holes in a meatball—and here is one great Window. Everything is different.

I'm going to suggest that the experiments we shall do in a moment will bring you Home to that same place. You must be the authority of what you find there. Any of these experiments will take you home. Some of them you may not like. We shall only do about three or four tonight. Some of them you may not like, some of them you may prefer. It doesn't matter which. Any ticket home to the place you never left is a good ticket. Any ticket. And we have quite a range, quite a sheaf of tickets, home to the place we never left. I say we never left it because we are all doing it right. Nobody is doing this wrong. Everybody is living, I believe, deeply deeply believe, everybody is living from this Clarity of Who they really really are. You would be falling over the furniture if you lived from that sticky wet dark meatball there. You'd be falling over the furniture. Everybody is living from this. What we are doing is not changing things, but waking up to the way things are. That in itself is an enormous change.


Single Eye Experiment

Now we will do some experiments. They're not going to take very long. We will do one or two little experiments for bringing us home to the place we never left.

The first one is concerned with how many eyes we are looking out of.

In the East there is a thing called the Third Eye. An experience called the opening of the Third Eye. It is alleged - we have the kind of impression - that this experience is only available in places like Tibet, or possibly Mexico, India, Japan, but hardly in Sydney. Hardly in New South Wales. Well, we are going to test this one. What are you looking out of now? How many eyes are you looking out of?

This is an action thing. It is not just listening to Douglas. What we have to do is, if we have a pair of glasses, we take them off. And we hold them out here the way I'm doing, hold them out there at arm's length. And if you don't have a pair of glasses will you please make up a pair the way I'm doing - hold your hands together like that and make up a pair. And don'
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