October of last year. Doi Suthep mountain, outside Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’m about 10 days into an arduous meditation retreat. My only real company has been myself for more than a week, at this point. I sleep in a room with no lights, no sheets on the bed except for one blanket. It is very quiet. And there is absolutely nothing lacking.
Sitting and concentrating has had an effect on the mind. In its focus and openness to understand, insights are received daily. They come and come, and there is always more to come.
Going to sleep on the 10th night, I go into a dream state. In my dream, I am in an unlit house which I’ve never been in before, in some room adjacent to the main living space. I am in front of a computer, and there is a man sitting next to me, talking to me. He is a spiritual teacher whom I recognize as Adyashanti. It’s an odd situation.
But it does not occur to me that I’ve never had a conversation with Adyashanti (Adya) before in my life, nor that I do not recognize the house I’m in, nor that we are using the computer for—for what? Words are coming out of my mouth but I’m not aware of anyone speaking them. There’s a sense of witnessing all of what’s happening; it’s very subtle.
I have read Adya’s books, watched his videos and radio broadcasts, so I’m familiar with his teachings. I know he teaches that ‘All is One, All is God’ and chasing enlightenment is as ridiculous as a dog chasing its own tail. So, of course, I was so excited to share with him, in the dream, my oh-so-profound realization that “dog” is “God” spelled backwards, and seeking enlightenment is God chasing itself, like a dog chases its tail. This was the conversation I found myself in the middle of.
Adya was talking to “me”—or my dream self—and responding enthusiastically: “Yeah, yeah, that’s cool. And, hey, check this out!” As he says that, he starts typing something on the computer; he’s searching on Google, I realize. A bunch of mumbo-jumbo, incomprehensible symbols appear on the screen, which are then Google translated (somehow we got to the Google Translate page) into an ancient language. I’m not sure whether its Sanskrit or Pali or something else. As I’m trying to make it out—my dream-self squinting at the computer screen in this dream-world—I suddenly have a realization that lack-consciousness is an illusion.
As I look back at Adya, or the dream-version of Adya, there’s a feeling that, somehow, this is what he wanted to communicate to me: there is no lack, at all.
At the same time as this insight dawned, it was connected to all of human life. I could see or feel somehow that human beings all across the globe, and for so much time, entrance themselves with this notion of lack. It was a very strange kind of seeing in which it was seen that humans are constantly chasing and fixating on lack—which does not exist—and that this kind of fixation, this lack-consciousness, is in a way defining the course of their lives. It was so strange because my reaction was, “This is completely nuts! You’re telling me that billions of people on this planet are running around, getting upset on account of ideas in their mind which don’t signify anything real! You’ve got to be kidding me! This is unbelievable!”
And yet, this is, I think, the profundity and kind of expanded awareness that Adya is trying to point to in his teaching. It is an awareness of what he calls “The Dream State,” in The Way of Liberation—a state of consciousness that pretty much all of humanity has fallen into, characterized by a sense of being separate from the world and—you guessed it!—lack.
When I awoke from this dream, I realized I had encountered this idea before, in a philosophy book. Deleuze and Guattari argue for the non-existence of lack in Anti-Oedipus, in relation to their re-thinking the concept of “desire.” As they say, “if desire is the lack of the real object, its very nature as a real entity depends upon an ‘essence of lack’ that produces the fantasized object” (p. 25). But note that they say “if” because desire is not the lack of a real object; there is no “essence of lack” at all.
This leads them to agree with Marx that “what exists in fact is not lack, but passion, as a ‘natural and sensuous object.’ Desire is not bolstered by needs, but rather the contrary; needs are derived from desire: they are counterproducts within the real that desire produces” (p. 27). Needs, like desire, are produced. According to Deleuze and Guattari, everything experienced in this world is real and produced by what is real; and yet, there is no “lack” in this world.
Now, they reach this conclusion through logic. However, it’s easier just to look with awareness; that is, just paying attention without thoughts or language ‘interfering.’ Looking around as awareness, we can ask “where is lack?” “I see people, things, nature; thoughts, emotions, sensations; all kinds of life but no lack!” Not even something like “hunger” is lacking in anything. Rather it’s a kind of force compelling an organism to eat.
So, this is the point. We cannot find this “lack” in the real world, in our actual experience as opposed to in our minds. We can only find the idea of lack in thought processes—in the mind or imagination, you could say. As a consequence, when we fixate our attention on these ideas of “what is missing” or “what is lacking” from our life as it is, we are actually engaged in a self-hypnosis whereby we imagine that we are lacking something, which in turn creates correspondently negative emotions.
Thought of lack –> Belief in Lack –> Attention fixates on belief –> Negative Emotion
This whole process happening within us—the idea of lack, assent to the idea as “true,” fixation on the belief, and generation of emotion—constitutes lack-consciousness. It is completely a creation of the virtual reality existing in our minds (an illusion), but it is something that humans are doing (“practicing”) all the time. And we suffer for it.
Deleuze and Guattari would agree with Adyashanti on another point: that lack-consciousness is part and parcel to the ego’s way of being (or, in Adya’s vocabulary, the egoic state of consciousness). It’s not just “there is lack” but what we experience is “I lack,” in which “I” is the ego, the egoic identity. By believing this thought we feel victimized, and the ego tricks us into sustaining its way of being.
The ego doesn’t really exist, either, except as our experience of the idea of ourselves. Just as we can never find “lack” in experience, we can never find an entity that we could call “ego” and say “Yep! There it is! That’s the ego right there!” In spite of the fact that we continually act on behalf of this imaginary identity, and we identify (in our thoughts) as this imaginary character, nevertheless, it is nowhere to be found in experience.
The recognition of both these illusions is freeing, even at an intellectual level. Not being a small ego frees us up to greatly expand our sense of self beyond imaginary boundaries. Seeing through the illusion of lack allows us to appreciate the abundance of what is…. There is so much abundance!! This recognition of abundance elevates and expands our consciousness to ‘higher levels,’ from which we appreciate more abundance, which elevates us more…. And on and on it goes.