Headless Way

I have explored Douglas Harding’s headless way over the last few days, and found the approach to allow for a quite easy transition.

When I notice my own immediate experience, I cannot find any head. There is just wide open space in which phenomena appear in the present. Since I just ate some food, there is lots of taste arising right now. And there is a sensation which I can label “hear touching skin”. And there is another which I can label “neck tension”. And another I can label “slight headache”. When I bring my hand up, there is a sensation I can label “fingers touching skin”. But none of these makes up a head. For there to be an experience of a head, I have to go into quite an effort to construct an elaborate idea of a head sitting on top of this body. And it is quite contrary to my immediate experience – which is just of a vast space within which phenomena arise in the present.

There is just phenomena arising within space.

Realizing this, I can also look at this body. How do I know there is a body? Again, there are just experiences arising. I can label them “pressure on the buttocks”, “pressure under the knee where it rests on the other knee”, “movement of the arms and fingers on the keyboard”. There are all these experiences arising in the present, but they do not quite make up an experience of a “body”. Again, for this “body” to exist, I have to construct an elaborate idea of a body.

And the same is true for the self. Where do I find this self? There are just experiences arising within space. There are experiences I can label “emotions”, “thoughts”, “sounds”, “sensations”, “cars”, “other people”, “a tree”. But where is the solid dividing line between self and no self? These experiences are all arising equally, in the present. Again, for the “self” to exist as relatively separate and in any fixed way, I have to go to a great deal of effort to construct an idea of a separate self. And this goes against my immediate experience.

I know that I have a special relationship with certain areas of this vast field – the areas I can call “body, emotions, thoughts”. But that does not mean that there are any absolute or solid boundaries to be found anywhere, between this and the larger field of experiences.

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