This is the edited transcript of the guided meditation done by Richard Lang about The Headless Way in the Waking Up app.
Hello, I’m Richard Lang. I’m very pleased to be able to present the science of the 1st person, also known as The Headless Way, here on the Waking Up app.
The science of the 1st person is a modern, experimental method of awakening to who you really are. It was developed by Douglas Harding, who wrote many books, including “On Having No Head” and “The Science of the 1st Person”.
The central question I’ll be asking in these sessions is “Who or what are you?”
One reason for asking this question is curiosity. Simply being curious about yourself. Not just accepting what others say you are, but taking a look for yourself.
Another reason is that living from the truth works better than living from a delusion. If you’re making a mistake about what you are, that is going to affect your life, your work, your relationships, everything.
Who or what are you? The hypothesis I’m putting forward is that you as 1st person, you as you are from your own point of view, are not the same as what you look like to others. For others, you are a person, but for yourself you are space for the world.
In these sessions, I’ll be leading you through awareness exercises, or experiments, which test this hypothesis. Each experiment guides your attention to what you are from your point of view, so that you can see for yourself whether you’re a thing in the world or space for the world.
As well as guiding you through experiments, I will indicate how the experience of being space for the world makes sense in terms of objective science and how being aware of our essential self is the natural next stage in personal development. I’ll also give you some ideas about how you can maintain awareness of your spacious 1st-person-hood in everyday life.
It is best to listen to these sessions in order. The content of later sessions builds on that of earlier ones.
We will now do an experiment, the pointing experiment, to test the hypothesis that you are space for the world. I’m going to guide your attention step by step from what you’re looking at to what you’re looking out of. From objects, there, to you, the subject, here. From the content of awareness to awareness itself.
This experiment is done with open eyes and it is best if you’re sitting down so that you can give your full attention to this experience.
Please point at an object in front of you. Actually point, with your index finger, at a specific thing. The reason for pointing like this is that it helps direct your attention, like a laser beam.
Looking on your finger, at the object you’re pointing at, notice what color it is. Notice what shape it is. Simply put, you can see that it’s an object, it’s a thing.
Now point at your shoe and look. Notice what color it is. Notice what shape it is. It is another object, another thing.
Now point at your torso. Notice what color it is. Notice what shape it is. You might even see the movement of your breathing. And again, simply be aware that it’s an object, a thing. It’s something you’re looking at. It’s part of the content of awareness.
Now you come to the most important part. You’re going to turn your attention around, 180 degrees, and look back at the place you’re looking out of. You’re going to look back at yourself, at you the looker, to see what you are.
To help turn your attention around, hold your hand out, in front of you, at eye level, but turn it around and point your finger directly back at where others see your face. Point at the place you’re looking out of.
What do you see in the direction in which you’re now pointing? Are you pointing at yet another thing? Do you see any colors there? Do you see any shapes there? Do you see any movement there? Do you see your face there?
It’s important that you put aside what you think is there, what others tell you is there, what you “know” is there, and instead you look for yourself with an open mind. Only you are in a position to see what you are on your side of your pointing finger. For the obvious reason that only you are there.
However, I’m going to share with you what I experience so that you can check to see if you’re in the same condition. While I’m sharing my point of view, I hope you’ll continue pointing and looking, so that you can see if my experience corresponds with yours.
Here is my experience. There I see my pointing finger, with the room beyond it. But here, on my side of my finger, where I’m pointing, I see nothing. Here I see no colors, no shapes, no movement, no face. Instead of seeing my face here, I see space, transparency, emptiness. This is what I find myself to be, here, right now, on my side of my pointing finger. I find this aware space, this awake emptiness.
There is something important to say at this point about this experience. It is non-verbal. I believe that you’re having the same essential experience as I am. In other words, that you’re pointing at a place, where you see nothing. But you may not think about it in the same way as I do. I’m using words like space and emptiness. These may or may not be meaningful to you. But the words are not the most important thing. The most important thing is the experience.
If my words are not helpful to you, leave them aside and find your own, to describe this experience. Or don’t use any words at all.
The second thing to say is that this experience is also non-emotional, it is not a feeling. I’m not feeling the space here, I’m seeing it. In this sense, this experience is neutral. It’s simply an observation of what you see when you look at yourself, or rather what you don’t see.
Some may have expectations of what we will feel when at last we see who we really are. When we shift attention from the objects of awareness to the subject, to awareness itself. We might expect to feel free, or peaceful, or happy, but this experience I’m sharing with you now is a kind of non-experience. It is empty of content. It has no feeling. It is simply noticing that you do not see your face, instead you see the world.
If you don’t feel anything, or it doesn’t mean something to you, this is OK. It is quite normal. I just hope that you can be patient. It takes time for the benefits of seeing who you really are to reveal themselves.
Now I’m going to ask you to do one more thing. Whilst you’re still pointing in with your finger (if you’ve been resting your hand for a moment please raise it again and point back at yourself), please raise your other hand, place it alongside your first hand, but point out with it.
Now you have that second finger pointing out at things, and the first finger pointing in at no-thing. This is two-way pointing. Two-way looking. Out and in, at the same time.
This indicates the difference between the view out, to the world, and the view in, to the space. The view out is of things, the view in is of no-thing. And yet, the things there and the space here fit together perfectly. There is no dividing line between the empty space that you’re looking out of and all the things that are appearing in this space.
You can lower your hands now.
Pointing back at your no-face is an effective way of directing your attention to your essential self. To this space that contains the world. Even after many years of seeing who I really am, I still do the pointing experiment. Pointing here gets me actually looking at my no-face, rather than just thinking about it.
Seeing your no-face is the end of searching for your true self. You have found it. But this is also the beginning of living from this spaciousness.
If you want to benefit from seeing and being your true self, then keep looking. Keep practicing. Get into the habit of seeing and being who you really are. Until it becomes natural and normal to be space for the world. You don’t have to always point at it, you can look here without pointing.
The guided meditation continues …