Douglas Harding was the “founder” of the Headless Way, and his teachings are kept alive by one of his long time students, Richard Lang over at Headless.org (really a well laid out and chock-full website). I have read Harding’s book, On Having No Head, and found it to be both very entertaining and a deeply profound exposition on the practice of self-inquiry.
Richard sends out a newsletter called Reflections – A Course in Seeing. It includes testimonials from students of the Headless Way over the years. Today’s dispatch included the following quote which stopped me in my mental tracks:
The only thing I can do is see when it occurs to me to see. I can’t force it. The more I look, the more I remember to look. So when it comes to me to look, I do. I don’t just ignore the impulse and go on with what I’m doing. That’s the only way I know to keep it going or rev it up. Besides, I’m not sure I want to go full bore with it all the time. It’s always here, never lost, when I want it. I know it’s never inappropriate, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to think that it should be a 100% practice in time. We have to function in time, and though the timeless never gets in the way, it can go to the background with no harm to anyone. So far it has never failed to come back to awareness. Once you see it, it’s yours. It’s you. Trust it to come when it’s needed. It’s relaxing because it’s the place without tension. I don’t want to feel guilty if it fails to come up for a time. It’s still here. (M.S. UK.)
Another quote from the same email which brings the above points into even better focus:
Douglas compares it to being in love. You don’t have to think of your loved one every minute to be in love. It’s there in the background. (J.C. USA)
There is a saying in 12-Step programs. “Once you know, you can’t not know what you know.” Self-Inquiry is like that. Once you get a taste of what you really are, you just can’t get rid of it. It sneaks up on you in the strangest of moments. The “practice” of sitting your awareness in what is feels like to be here, now, is simple and profound, and is the only thing needed to come to finally knowing the Truth of what you already are. Making this simple technique into a big deal is self defeating and can be one of the best (and probably last) blocks against your inevitable abiding as that Truth.
Don’t make a big deal about it. Become friendly with the feeling of being here, now, and that feeling will see you through the hardest of times. It is what you are, and it is your best companion. Steadfast and sure. And, just like the most tenacious of infections, once you have been bitten by the ever present sting of Self-Inquiry your false identity is doomed.
Thank the Buddha!