“Hands Off” Your Experience!
by bryan maynard
…The way we learn how to be real, how to be ourselves, is by knowing our True Nature. To be real, and to be ourselves means being our True Nature. And to be just where we are is the closest thing in ordinary experience to being our True Nature…All the instructions on being real actually come from True Nature. So, the challenge is to learn how to listen and find out what our True Nature is telling us about being real and how to practice. –A. H. Almaas, The Unfolding Now, p. 20
What does our True Nature teach us about being real and what does True Nature teach us to practice? One of the first practices of True Nature is learning to be ‘hands off’ when it comes to our experience. True Nature (Being Real) says, “Don’t do anything with your experience. Let the experience happen. Take your hands off of your experience.”
True Nature’s Teaching: “Hands Off!” Your Experience
When I first began doing the practice of letting myself experience where I was in the moment the idea of not doing anything with my experience sounded ridiculous. I wondered if it meant being totally passive: Monks living in isolation and allowing flies to land in their eyes without swiping them away! But this is not what True Nature means when it teaches us to leave our experience alone.
Here’s an example of what “hands off’ means: Let’s say you take a bite of a peach only to discover that it is rotten. What does our True Nature teach us about taking our hands off an experience like this? It says, “Hands off this experience! Don’t do anything.” At first, this might seem to be saying that I have to keep eating the peach in order to learn how to be peaceful. This is NOT, however, what True Nature teaches us to do here. If someone is attacking me, I don’t NOT do anything! True Nature means that however you experience yourself and whatever arises in your awareness (i.e. the taste of rottenness)–that is to be left alone.
Many people misunderstand ‘hands off,’ thinking it means that they should continue eating the peach. But that’s not what it means. The rotten taste is already in my mouth. I already have it as an inner sensation that is arising in my experience. If I try to put that sensation away, I am dividing myself. I am saying ‘no’ to something in my experience. So, when we say ‘hands off,’ we mean hands off to whatever arises in our experience.
Hands off also applies to pleasant experiences. If I bite into a ripened peach and the juices run down my chin and the taste is delightful, I can fall into the trap of holding on too tightly to the experience of pleasantness: “I wish this would last longer than it does.” “I should never have to taste any unpleasant thing again.” “I want all peaches to be this good in life.” ‘Hands off’ says to this form of manipulating inner experience: “Eat the peach and allow yourself to enjoy the experience. Let it happen, but don’t try to make it last longer than is natural and don’t try to intensify this experience and, by all means, don’t stop eating the delightful peach because you think it will teach you nonattachment to experiences in life.” True Nature says that I let myself enjoy the peach and enjoy my feelings without holding on to them for too long.
This is what our real self teaches us to do with our inner experiences of rottenness and/or pleasantness in any field of experience. Almaas writes that in both cases, your mind is not doing anything to manipulate your inner experience. How true this is and how hard to practice! We train the mind to do nothing except notice what arises in our experience.
This is what True Nature teaches us. It doesn’t do anything to itself. It just is. So what we need to learn is how to be just like that. That is what the practice [of True Nature] is. True Nature doesn’t say, “Do this. Don’t do that.” Rather, it tells us NOT to do things that interfere: “No pushing, don’t manipulate [your experience], that’s not it.” Whenever we want to do something to ourselves (and our experience), it says, “No–hands off! leave your experience alone.
The Practice: How to NOT Do Anything and Leave Yourself Alone!
So, the practice of True Nature is to learn to leave yourself alone. Unlike the mind of false nature that never leaves yourself alone, True Nature relates in a certain way to whatever is happening to you. Let’s say you notice something in your experience–you feel pain in your body; you feel fear; or, you feel happiness. Or, maybe it is more generalized–you feel a broad, vague guilt or a large unfulfilled longing or you feel divided. In each case, True Nature doesn’t do anything except allow this experience to be. True Nature does nothing except maintain an open sense that everything belongs. True Nature relates to whatever is happening to us as an experience that simply is.
What does True Nature do? It doesn’t do anything. It is simply aware of whatever you are feeling; it is interested, empathic, attuned to what is happening. It wants to experience the feeling fully, be there for it with kindness, gentleness. True Nature doesn’t try to push…It doesn’t ‘do’ anything–it just is. And in its is-ness, the necessary qualities emerge. If compassion is needed, compassion emerges. If love is needed, love emerges. True nature doesn’t lift a finger.
Where to go from here? What to do?
1. Observe one aspect of your experience and let yourself be there with the experience. Be curious about it and let yourself feel it.
2. Don’t do anything to your experience except have that experience.
3. In fact, don’t do anything except leave yourself alone to have an experience 🙂
You are loved!