by Jan Frazier
Pic by Crystal Leahy
When a radical insight comes, so startling is the perspective shift that it appears to have occurred entirely out of the blue. More likely, it’s the culmination of a process that’s been under way for some time, perhaps unobserved.
When it deeply dawns that you are not your thoughts — when that reality penetrates consciousness, like sunlight suffusing the horizon — the solidity of thought has probably been chipping away for some time. The dissolution of the self has been quietly taking place. Around the edges of awareness, now and again you’ve intuited the artificiality and randomness of mental activity. There’ve been moments of seeing that you actually decide to believe what you do. The outline of a story has been seen, its content less substantial and compelling. The paltry consolation of an inner narrative has been realized, and turned from, in favor of the unmediated encounter with reality.
“Your entire life you’ve mistaken the contents of your mind for you.“
In those “before” times (the ones preparing you for the ultimate revelation), it happens something like this. From habit, a story starts spinning itself. Then the utter invention of it comes into view. Awareness takes hold of the dangling thread, pulling loose all the stitches of the half-made thing, leaving you briefly at peace, in the presence of reality (rather than in the presence of your thoughts). But then life goes on. Soon enough the pattern starts up again, and very likely you buy into the reality of the next story, wrapping yourself in its false comfort. (Maybe you are dimly aware of this taking place, but it feels so good that you avert your eyes from the truth, from the thinness of the mental invention.)
Until the radical dawning, thought will continue to compel. Until it no longer can.
Pic by Crystal Leahy
Only when you’re equipped to see will you see:
Your entire life you’ve mistaken the contents of your mind for you. Only then will you directly experience the authentic vitality, the something that can feel itself be, utterly independent of memory, belief, consolation. You will know that is what you are.
It’s a shock to the system. The thing suddenly seen, suddenly obvious. How can it have not been obvious before?
You can’t get a thing until you are ready to get it. Thinking about it a little harder won’t get you there. Long before you feel it in your viscera, you “got it” in your head. You could repeat the neat formulation (My thoughts are not reality). But you kept on generating thoughts and believing them, as if they were a piece of free-standing reality. You kept suffering.
Until the truth enters your bones like a warm morning, you can think about it all day, telling yourself you know you’re not your thoughts. Your mind understands plenty, which is as close to really getting it as a pencil sketch of a peach approximates warm juice in the mouth.
Until your mouth is brimming with juice, don’t waste your time trying to talk yourself into anything. Meanwhile, do not avert your eyes. When you see you’re buying into a self-made story, for God’s sake stop. Let the stitches unravel. Unclothed in the mind’s comforting inventions, you are more available to the sun.
Until the summer of her fiftieth year, Jan Frazier lived a life typical for a well-educated, middle-class American woman. A divorced mother of two teenagers, she was making a modest living writing and teaching writing. Following a Catholic childhood in Miami in the 1960s, she had studied English in college and graduate school. In her late twenties, longing for hills and snow, she moved to New England, where she was active in the peace movement. But the inner peace she sought always eluded her.
Then, in August 2003, she experienced a radical transformation of consciousness. Fear fell away from her, and she was immersed in a state of causeless joy that has never left her. While she has continued her life as writer, teacher, and mother, she has discovered it is possible to live a richly human life free of suffering. Her wish now is to communicate the truth that within every person is a pool of calm well-being that waits patiently to be stirred to life.
- When Fear Falls Away: The Story of a Sudden Awakening (Weiser Books) is Jan’s day-by-day account of the shift in consciousness & its alteration of her life.
- The Freedom of Being: At Ease with What Is (Weiser Books) looks at the nature of suffering and explores ways beyond it.
- Opening the Door: Jan Frazier Teachings on Awakening (eBookIt) is an eBook collection of essays. It opens the reader’s awareness to the possibility of a richly human life, beyond what appears possible to the ego and the mind.
Jan’s poetry and prose have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. Her poetry collection, Greatest Hits, was published by Pudding House, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has been inspired by Gurumayi, Krishnamurti, and Eckhart Tolle, but the joy she lives in belongs to no particular tradition, and is available to all. Jan lives in southern Vermont.