Just One Question

A room. In it, two long rows of pairs of participants, sitting facing each other. Most of the people are on chairs, yet there are also a few sitting on cushions on the floor. The facilitator and a few assistants are quietly walking around, or pausing near one of the pairs. There is murmur in the room, which comes from people talking. Some quietly, others in louder voices. All talks blend into a background sound. Periodically, there is a sound of a gong, indicating on switching roles. And the inquiry continues.

We zoom in on one pair, or a dyad, as they are called in the language of the workshop, Enlightenment Intensive. Just like all other dyads, these two people are sitting facing each other. Unlike others, they are sitting very close, knees almost touching. Gazing into each others’ eyes, with the murmur of 20 other couples around fading into the background. It is the last dyad of the whole workshop, and we have finally been given the permission by the facilitator to do a dyad together, after 3 long days of being asked to stay away from each other completely, so to not colour and impact our individual experiences.

“To live deeper, we have to go to the places that help us find a slower rhythm. But simply going to these places is not enough. We have to let these places touch us, change us, speak to us.” – anonymous

I still find it hard to articulate what it feels like, sitting like that and staring into the eyes of my beloved. Maybe it was not just the eyes, but the whole being. Who is the “me” that is staring? Or listening? There is my mind, trying to find words, to express and articulate and make vivid the experience of that moment. Yet, words are only an approximation, and even in their utmost eloquence, will be able to provide but a faded sliver of those moments of a direct experience. In a way, those are the moments we, the participants of this workshop, are after, even though we have no idea how, when, or even whether these will happen. Or what that moment will feel like. Those are the moments when the mind gives up on everything – on the stories, the descriptions, the excuses, the strategies to avoid the inquiry, the physical discomfort, or the emotional distress. In those unpredictable and unexpected moments, something happens and the mind (or the ego) gives up, not having anything else to hold on to. And then, there is a direct experience.

After all, I got to see an element of my true nature, inquiring during the whole retreat into one question only. “Tell me who you are.” Again and again and again, with one dyad partner after another, repeating the same phrase. It was the same contemplation during the breaks, during meals, during walks, when sitting in the hot tub, going to bed. No escape for the mind but to stay with this phrase (OK, it escaped plenty of times, yet always came back).

Sometime during the second day, when yet another dyad participant asked me my question, a thought crossed my mind. “What would Tobi say about me if it was he who was asked this question?” A spontaneous burst of tears followed this thought, which continued making its way into my process into the following day as well.

“Rise up nimbly and go on your strange journey to the ocean of meanings. The stream knows it can’t stay on the mountain. Leave and don’t look away from the sun as you go, in whose light you’re sometimes crescent, sometimes full.” – anonymous

Sometime during the third day, when I was in the woods, a hummingbird froze right in front of me for what felt like a very long split-second. There was something innocent and magical that stayed with me, and opened me up to a moment that happened later in the day. Being on my knees with another dyad participant who was going through his inquiry, something burst through me. Innocence. It was felt, tangible, unexplainable, undeniable, visceral, and pure. Innocence. And even though the experience feels slightly faded as I write it, I also sense the truth of that moment, of what a direct experience feels like. It might be more than a feeling. A knowing. Of the most undeniable kind. Innocence. And in that moment of eyes connecting, during that last dyad, innocence met love.

Simon Goland