Some people claim to not be affected by life, saying that nothing touches them, that they don’t feel anything, that nothing ever bothers them, that they have gone beyond all human concerns – and then they claim that this numbness equals freedom and enlightenment. It’s sad when the limitless possibility of awakening gets reduced to detachment, numbness and world-rejection. I do understand that nihilistic place, though. I spent many years there, in that place of no intimacy, untouched and unmoved and unloved, and have deep compassion and understanding for those who are struggling there.
But what could possibly be wrong with being deeply affected by life? What is ‘unawakened’ about letting ALL life energies move through you? When did feeling sadness, joy, pain and passion ever become a ‘nondual no-no’?
Yes, of course, on the level of consciousness, you are always unaffected. Nothing can touch you. You are cosmically unbothered. But nobody can live in the Absolute, as I have always said. It is a mental position, not a way to live. For in this relative human experience, you are radically OPEN to all movements of life. Life is not something you can shut out, for there is no ‘you’ to shut anything out! Joy, fear, pain, confusion, even doubt – everything, absolutely everything can touch you, move you, affect you deeply, and then pass, and that is the only reason why compassion is possible at all.
Numbness and life-denial and the absence of human feeling and care may seem like freedom in the beginning, but it lacks compassion, which is our only salvation in the end.
Untouched, yet fully touched; hurt, yet cosmically unhurt; unaffected, yet deeply affected by every single precious moment of this crazy, beautiful, bittersweet dream of a life – that is the beautiful paradox of spiritual awakening, and to deny either side of the paradox, to reject the relative for the absolute or vice versa, is the beginning of great confusion and suffering and even madness, even if it seems like freedom at the time. For in the end, the split never really happened at all, and there is only this precious moment, intimate, alive, rich with humanity and deeply cherished, forever…
– Jeff Foster