One spring afternoon in 2009, the last piece of the puzzle found its place, effortlessly.
The simplicity of the information stared at me as I made my way back to the train station. While walking away from meeting Leo Hartong in Holland, his simple words “Yes, this is It,” had once and for all confirmed that I already knew the answers to the questions: “ Is it the beingness of what we are?", "Is this what the search is all about?”, “Is this really It?”, “Is it really this simple?”
It stared as the trees lining the streets and the people walking and shopping. Nothing had changed and yet everything was different, direct, immediate.
Not that I did not know this intimacy. I had been having oneness experiences all my life in which the little child, the adolescent, the adult disappeared, and the thing that remained was the field of awareness with sounds, sights and smells in vibrant clarity. Only, it had taken a journey of 25 years to come to grasp that This is what it is all about.
While I boarded the train, I wondered: “How come this obviousness had not been recognized before?”, “How can I have been so dense that I had failed again and again to notice it while it already stared at me right in the face all this time?”
* * * * * * * * * *
I grew up in a large Catholic family in a small village in Holland. Both my parents worked hard to earn the financial means to raise seven children. This left them little time to further instruct and condition their brood. The religious background, as lived by my family, was one of accepting and following. We children did not ask questions and primary school with 45 children in one class did not help to inspire a thirst for knowledge.
These factors contributed to an unquestioning and vacant mind. Not that the child was dumb, I was quick to learn, but education as it presented itself, held no particular interest. There was no need or interest to understand.
There were oneness experiences from time to time but as they had been there always, they were seen as a natural part of life. I thought everyone had those experiences and did not talk about them.
Out of a wish to help others, I trained as a nurse. I also went travelling for a few years. And life went on.
Even when the spiritual journey started at age 22 reading spiritual books, there was no recognition upon reading similar experiences others had had, or going through teachers’ descriptions about the intimacy of being. My oneness experiences were ordinary, while the oneness experiences in the books sounded special, something to strive for.
By 1984, I had settled in the international township of Auroville in South India where, by the mere fact of living there, national and religious conditioning fell away. Other identifications were seen through by trying to follow the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Through observing and watching the mind, the emotions and the body: “Neti neti: I am not the mind, I am not the emotions, I am not the body.” And through practicing the ways of Bhakti and Karma yoga, the conditioning of the body-mind thinned out. It was a natural process with no particular aim in mind. There was no person seeking happiness or looking for enlightenment. If at all, there was more the wish to give oneself to something larger than this limited ego bound person. But to be honest, there was the vague idea of a permanent state of bliss in a distant future.
Some 5 years before the penny dropped, there was the perception of not feeling like one person nicely bound up with a story. It was becoming empty with hardly a wish, a desire, an opinion.
As I had no idea that the deconstruction which had been going on for 2 decades could have this as a result, I thought some thing was wrong. After all wasn’t I supposed to be transported to higher levels in permanent bliss?
It felt strange, disconcerting, like morphing with ‘what is’ in an uneasy way.... There were at times periods of silence and joy but these too came and went. Often there was wonder: “What is going on?”
There had always been a resonance with the truth of these teachings, but often the language was far too abstract for this lazy mind of mine, that had skipped over the parts that might have shortened the journey.
Of course, the seeking journey was perfect because this is what happened. Oneness seeking itself through a meandering sort of way...
A few years before the recognition, Oneness must have felt: “Enough is enough!” and expressed the need for a conclusion. Perhaps in order that recognition could take place, the urge to exercise the mind appeared. There also came the realization that the mind was lazy and the need to occupy it came up. Along with the reading of difficult philosophical books, learning accounting started as well as playing games on the computer to make the mind more alert, pliable, concentrated.
At this time, there was also the discovery of the Internet and a whole new world opened up. I could watch at length modern-day YouTube videos of Western nonduality teachers who were my age and spoke my language, like Rupert Spira, John Wheeler and Leo Hartong.
Only at this point with recognition so close, did the desire for liberation wake up. And a burning passion to know appeared: ‘What is THIS all about?’
What these teachers were talking about was already operating in my life, but there was the disbelief that It could be so simple. I needed the confirmation of someone whom I could trust, who would be able to confirm the premonition:
‘I Am what I am looking for.'
This is when and why I asked Leo Hartong if we could meet.
* * * * * * * * * *
That afternoon in 2009, while looking for a vacant seat in a compartment, I came to realize that these last years’ experience of not feeling like a person and the thought that something was wrong were not the signs of a mental breakdown but a perfume of the Infinite.
As the train made its way back to Amsterdam through a landscape of meadows and suburbs, there came the realization that the key is neither the oneness experiences nor the deconditioning process, as both do not necessarily deliver the conclusion.
The one thing, the missing key is the recognition of beingness, the simple fact of existing.
The train arrived at Central station.
And so it was the end of a journey.
* * * * * * * * * *
" When the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
You are neither holy nor wise,
just an ordinary fellow
who has completed his work."
- P’ang Yun (Ho Un)