Unfindable and still there

For people new to inquiry, and the Living Inquiries in particular, a fear may come up: If something is unfindable, does it mean it doesn’t exist? If what I took myself to be is unfindable, who am I? How will I be able to function?

Unfindable doesn’t mean doesn’t exist. And something can be unfindable and still be functional in an ordinary sense.

For instance, take a pen. Look at the word “pen”. Is that word the pen? Look at the pen. Is the colors the pen? Is the outline the pen? Is the texture the pen? Feel it. Is that sensation the pen? Click it. Is that sound the pen? Write with it. Is the lines on the paper the pen? Can you find the pen? Can you find an actual object called a pen?

It may be unfindable. And doesn’t it still write? Can’t you still use it, as before?

That’s how it is with just about anything. We can look for it. See that it’s unfindable, after thorough looking. And it’s still functional. I’ll still answer if someone says my name. I’ll still go to the doctor if my body shows unusual symptoms or is in pain. I’ll still be as good of a steward of my life as I am able to.

My body, hunger, and breakfast may all be unfindable, and I’ll still eat breakfast when I am hungry.

This is the middle way. This is one way the middle way of Buddhism can be understood.

Here and now, and from the past

Velcro, identifications, and trauma are here and now, and from the past.

They are here and now, and cannot be found in the past or future. We cannot even find past, future or present outside of what’s created by images, words and sensations.

At the same time, velcro, identifications, and trauma were initially created and formed at some point in the past, often in early childhood. And it can be very helpful to look at that, question the painful stories, and find love for what was unloved. One way to find these early events is to ask when did you first have that thought?, or when do you remember first having that feeling?

It’s frequently said, and it seems to be true enough, that childhood trauma is behind a great deal of what we struggle with as adults.

So which one is it? Are these things here and now? Or found in the past? It’s both, as so often. It’s all happening here and now, and within that we can find painful stories of events from early in our life. And it’s important to look at these, and find some resolution and healing.

It’s also neither. At some point, it can be helpful to look for velcro, identifications, and trauma themselves. Can I find these outside of my images, words, and sensations that create an experience of these?

And unfindable doesn’t mean doesn’t exist or that they are not helpful stories or pointers in some situations. They can be, for instance, in finding healing.

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Notice all as awareness

At some point in the process, it can be helpful to notice all as awareness.

This sound, this image, this word, this sensation, it’s all awareness.

It happens within and as awareness.

Even what seems most solid to me – this tension, contraction, discomfort – is awareness.

When I look for something that looks real and solid (Living Inquiries), and it’s unfindable to me, it’s often easier to notice this.

It may seem that the images, words, and sensations themselves are real and solid, so I can look for them. And it may seem that awareness is a “thing” so I can look for that too.

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Absent of I

What does “absent of I” mean?

Simply, it means that what I take myself to be is, when I look, unfindable. Whether what I take myself to be is a me or an I, a human self, a body, a deficient or inflated self, a doer, an observer, a soul, awareness, Spirit, or something else.

When I look, I cannot find any of these outside of images, words, or sensations. And those aren’t “it” either.

Unfindable doesn’t mean doesn’t exist. It just means unfindable.

P.S. The URL for this blog is absentofi.org

Unfindable self, unfindable world

In Michael Taft’s book about the history of nonduality, he mentions that some traditions emphasize unfinding the self, and other traditions unfinding the world, and some may include both.

For me, it makes sense to include both, and really anything that’s part of my world that seems real and solid to me. Why leave any stone unturned?

And that’s what the Living Inquiries do. I look for deficient selves. Threats. Compulsions. My body. Other people. Situations. Awareness. Thoughts. Anything at all.

There is a shift when a systematic, thorough and sincere looking shows that something is unfindable. It doesn’t mean that I am “all done”. It’s just a shift. Then there is something else to look at, and for. It’s an ongoing process. And over time, the shift deepens.


It can be very helpful to meet what’s here with love, rest with it, notice it’s already allowed, and so on. All of those are part of healing, and noticing what’s already here.

And yet, if we don’t go more basic, something is not yet seen. There is further to go.

We’ll keep relating to what’s here as a problem. Something that needs to change, or be fixed, or go away. Something scary. That’s painful, and it’s painful since there is further to go with it.

Our conscious view and recognition is not as aligned with reality as it can be.

What’s happening – in my experience – is that sensations seem stuck on certain words and images, lending them charge and a sense of solidity and reality. This conglomerate may seem scary, or as a deficient self, or a compulsion for a certain action.

This is how our experience is created at a relatively basic level. And that’s exactly why we often are not aware of it. It happens, and we don’t recognize what’s happening, because it’s happening at a more finely grained level than we are used to noticing.

We tend to notice the conglomerates as wholes, not as made up of these parts. And we are especially not used to slowing it all down, and examining how they are made up in detail.

When I instead do slow it down. Rest with what’s here. Notice. Look at the images. Look at the words. Feel the sensations. Ask simple questions to see what’s already here. Then something shifts. The charge softens or is released.

Sensations are recognized, and felt, as sensations. (Not as something meaning that certain images and words are true.) Images are seen and recognized as images. (Not as something real about me or my past or future or the world.) Words are seen and recognized as words.

I get to see how my experience is created, by my own mind, in a more basic and finely grained way.

I can even explore what seems most real and unquestionable in this way. Can I find space? Time? Past? Future? Present? My body? Words? Images? Sensations? Rest? Awareness?

Can I find any of those outside of images, words, and sensations? How do they appear initially, when the conglomerate perhaps seems more solid and real? How does it appear afterwards, when it’s perhaps unfindable to me?

It may be unfindable as something solid, real, and “out there”. At the same time, I can find the images, words and sensations making it up in my experience. And unfindable doesn’t mean “doesn’t exist”. I’ll still live in an ordinary way, as if time, space, body etc. all exist. But it’s held much more lightly.

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Time doesn’t exist?

I saw someone on Facebook (one of the teachers from Center for Sacred Sciences) say “or perhaps time doesn’t exist at all?”.

If that’s they case, why not throw away your calendar? 😉

Saying that time doesn’t exist is as misleading as saying it does exist. It does and doesn’t, in different ways.

It can be another place for identification to land, another story we are trying to find a sense of safety through by holding it as true, or even a “final” truth.

To me, it seems much more accurate to say that it’s unfindable. When I look for time, I find words, images and sensations, and none of those are “time”. I cannot find time outside of these words, images and sensations. (And if I look for words, images and sensations in this way, I cannot find them either…..!)

I still have images and words relating to time, and I use them to organize my life in an ordinary and everyday sense. But I still cannot find an actual, real “time” when I look for it.

And unfindable is not the same as “doesn’t exist”.

Findable and unfindable

I see that things – people, selves, objects, concepts, the world – is findable and unfindable.

It’s findable as words, images, sensations and a sense that they are “glued” together.

It’s unfindable as anything else than that.

And all of that too is unfindable, the words, images, sensations, glue and so on. When I look for it in immediate experience, I cannot find it as a real, solid, existing object.

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