The Second MBMC Retreat   |  Agencylessness

On the seventh day of that second week of giving it everything I had, at about 2:30 p.m. or so, after a session of walking meditation on the second floor of MBMC, I was really exhausted from so much effort to clearly comprehend every sensation that arose and vanished. I decided to let the technique go, take a little break, and began walking across the floor towards a little table of beverages on the far opposite corner of that walking hall—the offerings included hot water, tea, hot chocolate, some Asian equivalent of Tang whose label I couldn’t read, etc. About halfway there, suddenly a suffering door Fruition happened, which wouldn’t generally be anything unusual, as Fruitions had been happening so often. However, the ripping away of everything didn’t have that creepy, violating feeling that the suffering door always had, and instead was oddly nice. This reflection on the memory of niceness in the entrance to Fruition was noticed immediately when reality reappeared as being completely different, and then attention latched onto something in that recognition as object, and everything flipped over, like something fundamental had untangled itself, and then came the realization, “Holy shit, this is it!”

It was amazing. It was what I had been looking for. I knew it was the answer: everything was just where it was. Cycles and stages and states were simultaneously irrelevant and yet any stage or state that arose was an integral part of that moment and thus the immediate solution to the problem. This moment was everything regardless of anything and because of everything. It just happens. It knew itself where it was all the way through. It satisfied like nothing previously did. It explained the core of the dharma and made it obvious in real time. In the seeing, just the seen. In the hearing, just the heard. In the thinking, just the thought. In the feeling, just the felt. Its pristine simplicity and directness were stunning. The cycles still occurred, but they had little relevance. Experience itself, as it was, however it was, was automatically it. As we will see, something in me contracted around this point shortly enough; but, for an hour or two, the utter simplicity of the pure sense doors doing their natural thing reigned.

True agencylessness is an acquired taste. I remember the first time that I fully appreciated that fact. It was during that first phase of being untangled. I was so excited by what had happened that I went into my room to sit on my bed. Then, without warning, the body got up and headed across the second-floor walking room towards the bathroom. Strangely, there was no obvious sense of where it was going, why, or what it was going to do when it got there. It went to the bathroom, picked up the laundry out of the little spinning dryer, took a drink of water from the sink, and headed back towards the room.

This out-from-control mode might have been utterly creepy had I been in a different state of mind. In fact, I have friends who report finding this phase of practice, in which we are just starting to appreciate the full depths of no-self, to be utterly disconcerting. I was lucky to be so fascinated and relieved by the fact of the answer not depending on any cycle of insight or jhana that I didn’t react badly to it, but I can totally get why someone experiencing that new way of being might suddenly contract rapidly back into the familiarity and comfort zone of the illusion of control.

The Second MBMC Retreat   |  Agencylessness