Just Happens

During our walk Sunday, I shifted my shoulder bag over from one shoulder to another. I noticed how I initially tried to image and figure out how to do it, and then how it just seemed to happen on its own – in a different way than I expected, and much simpler.

This is just one of many examples of how things just seem to happen on their own. For every thing I look into, I see that it seems to just happen on its own. It is just happening.

There is a thought, coming out of the blue and then vanishing again. There is an intention, coming out of the blue and vanishing. There is a focus of attention, shifting around. There are movements. And it is all just happening.

Just happening

There are many ways to look at this.

One is that every instance has infinite causes, tied to the universe and existence as a whole. It is not possible to narrow it down to some factors and exclude other.

Another is that it is all happening within and as the ground. It is all emerging out of and as the ground, right where it is at. Its source is right there. The ground is a fountain from and as which the whole world of phenomena is arising right now, always new, fresh, different.

A more conventional way to look at it, which also is included in the situation, is that my conscious mind does not really understand how anything works. I may have an intellectual understanding how what happens in the brain when there are thoughts, intention, or a focus of attention, but that does not really explain what is really going in. It is an overlay of abstractions on top of something that is really utterly mysterious and unknown to me.

Even the seemingly most ordinary and daily activity is utterly mysterious. It has infinite causes, tied to the whole of the universe and existence. It goes on at a level where any layer of abstractions cannot touch it. It arises from and as the ground.

It just happens, seemingly in its own. When I look, I cannot find any “I” inherent in it, or inherent in anything else that “causes” it.

Ideas and explorations

Knowing this as an idea may be temporarily interesting, but not have much consequence. It is only another belief at best.

Sincerely exploring it – how this appears in my own immediate experience, is something else. It can slowly unravel our whole vague and unquestioned sense of an “I”, an I a separate and independent “agent” which brings these things about.

Shoulder bag

So in the case of the shifting of the shoulder bag, I find…

  • Awareness of sensations in the shoulder, the labels “pain” and “discomfort” placed on it, and the idea of this having to do with carrying the bag on one shoulder for a while.
  • An intention arising of shifting the bag over to the other shoulder.
  • Images arising of how this may look.
  • Movements happen in my arms and upper body, resulting in the bag shifting over to the other shoulder.
  • Surprise arising, of how it actually happened in a different way than the initial image of it.
  • Thoughts following the surprise, noting how my initial image was different than what happened.
  • Words spoken to Jen about noticing this.
  • A focus of attention shifting throughout this process, from sensations, labels, analysis, image of shifting the bag, the movements of the upper body, the surprise, the thoughts coming up from the surprise, the talking of it to Jen.
  • Awareness within which this all unfolds.

Is there an “I” anywhere in this? I cannot really find it. Even now, as I look for an I anywhere, I only find a conglomerate of sensations, feelings, mild emotions, thoughts, focus of attention, and awareness, each one apparently empty of any “I”. The seeing of it may be what appears the most as an “I”, but I cannot find an indisputable I even there. There is seeing, for sure, but is there a seer?


I also see that there is a wanting to not find an I anywhere, and this prevents me from engaging sincerely in the inquiry. I am looking for “no I”, so any hint in that direction is taken as evidence and an opportunity to say “good enough – there is no I here”. There is not the freedom to sincerly explore what is true in my immediate experience, whatever it may be – different from expectations and memories.

The times that realization has “popped” it has been great – freeing, liberating, blissful. And there is also the implicit “should” in many of the spiritual traditions: there is no I anywhere, so having a sense that there is comes from delusion. Of course, the should comes from myself.

I shouldn’t have a sense of an I.

  1. Yes (I can find that.)
  2. No (Cannot know for sure. Also, cannot know what is best for my path.)
  3. Restlessness. Notice a sense of I, the belief that I shouldn’t have it, and the discrepancy between the two. This gives rise to restlessness, discomfort, wanting to get away from the situation, distracting myself away from it. Vague sense of shame and guilt, of not being good enough, not clear enough. Wanting to jump to any evidence of no I, and be done with it – not having to explore and investigate it further. General restlessness and wanting to get away, bring focus to something else. Confusion. Latching on to memories of times of clearer seeing and abstractions around the topic. Go to abstractions rather than what is really true in immediate experience. Sense of seaparation from what is, including what is real for me in the present.
  4. Free to explore what is true for me, in my immediate experience – independent on whether it conforms to expectations of what to find or not. Able to inquire in a more sincere way. Able to enjoy the inquiry process more, independent of the specific findings. Sense of intimacy with what is.
  5. (a) I should have a sense of I.

    Yes, if there is a sense of I there, there should. It is what it is. Also, having a sense of I – and exploring its consequences – allows me more real empathy with myself and others.

    (b) My thoughts shouldn’t have a sense of I.

    (c) My thoughts should have a sense if I.

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