Here's part of what Sam Harris said yesterday in a guided meditation on his Waking Up app that I listen to most mornings, along with a guided meditation by Tamara Levitt on my Calm iPhone app.
What would this moment be like if there truly was nothing missing, and nothing to do? Nothing to improve. Nothing to wait for.
What if this is it? Is there any sign that it is insufficient? Is there any sign of its imperfection?
Is there something you’re trying to accomplish? Simply relinquish all effort to try to improve experience in this moment.
Let everything be just as it is.
Give up all effort. Simply notice whatever appears, grasping at nothing, pushing nothing away.
Just realize everything is in its own place. And everything is all there is in each moment.
Isn’t everything enough?
There’s always just consciousness and its contents as a matter of experience.
See if you can recognize this.
Now, one thing that came to mind is that seemingly there's a considerably difference between (1) letting everything be just as it is while I'm sitting peacefully in a chair, headphones on, listening to a guided meditation, and (2) letting everything be just as it is while, say, I'm sitting in a dentist's chair having a tooth drilled into.
Or having some other painful, unpleasant, or disagreeable experience.
It's unclear whether Harris meant for his words to apply to all sorts of moments, rather than just peaceful moments. I have a feeling that he did mean just that, since later in the guided meditation I recall him saying that it is important to blur the distinction between formal meditation and activities of everyday life.
And it would indeed be strange if the advice above about pushing nothing away only was relevant to pleasurable experiences where there would be no inclination to push something away.
So I believe that Harris is pointing toward something universally applicable, as difficult as it may be to envision simply noticing whatever appears without trying to grasp at something or push something away. If we've got a painful headache, doesn't it make sense to push it away with an aspirin, or whatever?
Sure it does. I don't think Harris is espousing an extreme fatalism where no effort is made to improve our condition or that of others. Rather, he seems to be talking about a view of life that, as his app puts it, involves waking up.
The question is, waking up to what? Having listened to a lot of what Harris has to say, and having read each of his books, here's some ideas about what he's asking us to wake up to.
-- The present moment, which by definition, can't be changed. It simply is what it is.
-- The interdependence of everything in existence. Emptiness, to use a Buddhist term.
-- The passing nature of reality, notably including our own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.
-- Our lack of free will, even though most of us consider that we possess it.
-- Our incessant habit of dividing realty into good and bad, based on our own subjectivity.
-- Our constant desire to find something new and better.
-- The lack of evidence for an enduring self. A "me" separate and distinct from experience.
I'm not saying that what I just wrote actually reflects what Harris is getting at. This is just how I look upon his words that I shared at the beginning of this post.
If you have different ideas about Harris' meaning here, leave a comment with your own viewpoint. The screenshot below is from the Waking Up web site.