I have dedicated myself to the ‘headless way’ for more than forty years and led hundreds of workshops. Here are some reflections on my work:
My first task in a workshop is an easy one – to show people how to see Who they really are. Using the Headless Way experiments, I invite people to notice the place they are looking out of – this boundless nothingness full of the world; this faceless space full of everyone else’s face; this stillness in which the world dances; this no-mind full of mind… The experiments make this obvious – look at where others see your face… What do you see?
I point out that this is a non-verbal and non-emotional experience. Not exactly the advertising line to attract people, I suppose! Who would be interested in something so plain? But in fact the utter plainness of facelessness, the fact that it is a ‘non-experience’, is profoundly valuable. If seeing your true Self were a matter of understanding or feeling, some would get it and others would not. Or you would get it on some days but not on others. But it’s not like that. You can notice your facelessness any time, any place, no matter what you are thinking or feeling. There are no gradations in this experience, no hierarchy of seers of This, no getting better or worse at it – just seeing it.
So when people in a workshop experience different reactions to seeing this Space, I explain that this is normal. If someone is having a very positive reaction, I celebrate that, of course. But it doesn’t mean they have ‘got it’ more than others. We have all got it, but we react differently. Vive la difference!
Because it’s clear that everyone can see their facelessness from the first moment, a workshop is not a path to ‘getting there’ but an opportunity for people to share their experience of ‘being there’. Occasionally people react with fear or anger. Near the beginning of a workshop a man turned to me and said: “I am feeling angry.” Then he re-phrased his words: “Actually, I’m not feeling angry, I’m feeling very angry!”
I remember feeling my heart sink a little. But I continued seeing I was space for the situation and asked him why he was angry. He said that he didn’t like the idea that he was nothing. He spoke honestly: “It’s frightening.” “Of course!” I responded. “Nothing by itself sounds frightening. But look now. Is it just nothing, or is it a nothing that is full of everything?” “Ah, I see what you mean. Of course! It’s not just empty, it is also full! Well, that’s different!” His anger melted in seconds. This experience was moving, but it also illustrates a principle of a workshop – appeal not to argument but to experience.
I came across the headless way when I was a teenager, and I have lived most of my life with many friends around me who see Who they are. In other words, I grew up in a mini-society where Seeing was normal. Everyone was aware of being capacity for the world. It was in the air. You only had to be around these friends to be reminded of your true Self. A workshop is a similar situation – for a few hours it is a mini-society where seeing your true Self is on the front burner. Being headless is in the public domain. It’s accepted – it’s okay to be headless! In fact, in such a society, it’s hard not to be headless! It’s contagious.
But here’s an important point – seeing you are the Self does not mean that you negate or neglect your separate human self. Sometimes people say something like this: “I’m feeling separate, therefore I cannot be seeing Who I am.” Well, I say you can! Try it! See if you can consciously be space for that feeling of separation. Isn’t that the way you are built – capacity for whatever is happening? You are both the One (privately) and a person (publicly). I can sometimes hear a deep sigh of relief in a workshop when people realise they don’t have to somehow get rid of their personal self.
In a workshop I take people through a range of experiments - each experiment brings out a different aspect of headlessness, a different potential benefit. Some are visual, some non-visual; some investigate the location of thoughts and feelings; some point out the stillness at the heart of movement; some explore how we come to identify with our personal self…
A powerful experiment involves looking at another person and noticing you see their face but not your face. Recently, after doing this experiment, I have been inviting people in the workshop – if they want to - to choose another person in the circle, to look at them, and then describe their experience of being face to no-face – in their own words. Perhaps they say such things as: “I have your face instead of my own. I am capacity for you – you are within me. I am you…” Whatever the words used, this can be a deeply moving experience. After doing this, a friend told me: “Normally when I’m with others I am noticing I have their faces instead of my own, but I don’t tell them. It’s my secret. So to sit in front of someone and tell them – I am telling them my secret! It is an intimate and beautiful and powerful thing to do.” Not only is it powerful to declare this truth to another person – to go public as it were – it is also powerful to be on the receiving end. Someone is sharing with you the deepest, most private – and wonderful - truth about themselves.
I love sharing the headless way, but I don’t go round gathering students. Instead I go round making friends! How could I teach you about ‘nothing’? How could I claim to have something that you don’t have? It’s ridiculous. There can be no hierarchy at this level. But there can be friendship. I have the feeling that the sharing of this amongst friends is what the universe is all about.
Shaped and sustained by the nondual tradition of Kashmir Shivaism, Eric Baret’s words take us back to the simple observation of our felt sense of emotion and, ultimately, to pure listening.
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