From Tip To Bridge

Ant on purple flower
... for as long as it takes an ant to travel from the tip of your nose to its bridge ...

In a recent appearance here in Boulder, Dzogchen teacher Namkhai Norbu offered a lovely teaching on resting in the Nature of Mind, i.e. on taking our stand as Pure Awareness. The benefit of resting as Awareness for the amount of time it takes an ant to travel from the tip of the nose to its bridge, he said, far exceeds the benefits of engaging in years, decades or even lifetimes of effortful, results-oriented, goal-driven qigong, yoga or meditation practice.

This metaphor – of an ant scurrying from the tip to the bridge of ones nose – heralds from a time well before the advent of mechanical clocks. So instead of designating ten seconds as, say, the time it takes the second-hand of a clock to move from the clock-face’s “twelve” to its “two-o’clock” position, this relatively brief amount of time was designated in relation to the distance traversed upon a human face, by the relatively speedy ant.

Whether we’re using a clock-face or a human nose as our measuring-stick, the point is that even a relatively brief glimpse of the Nature of Mind (as Pure Awareness) is of immense benefit. When we say “relatively brief” we are speaking in relative body-mind-world terms. From the point of view of Awareness itself, the “experience” itself is timeless, infinite, eternal.

Thread Of Awareness

So what is this Nature of Mind (or Mind of Tao) which, when knowingly glimpsed, satisfies in a way infinitely more complete than the result of any specific yoga or meditation practice?

 In the following poem, William Stafford alludes to it as a "thread" of Pure Awareness, which remains as the unchanging background of changing appearances:

The Way It Is

There is a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what things you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
But you don't ever let go of the thread.

And here’s a lovely pointer from John Wheeler’s Full Stop! The Gateway to Present Perfection:

“Your present and undeniable self-nature is ever-present, ever-attained, beyond getting or losing. All talk of attainment, awakening, enlightenment and all the rigmarole that goes on in the name of spirituality crumbles to dust. This, your natural, innate being, is pure radiance, timeless and unshakable peace, immense clarity that cannot be obscured by any experiences, feelings, thoughts or circumstances. In truth, it is prior to and independent of all concepts, however sublime. This is your natural state, here and now.”

Does this mean, then, that specific qigong, yoga or meditation practices – designed to achieve specific results – have no purpose? Not at all! While not strictly necessary for resting as Awareness (which itself requires nothing!), such practices can be of great benefit, in terms of the physical, mental and emotional health of the human bodymind. They may also help to “set the stage” for a glimpse of Pure Awareness – and once we’ve had such a glimpse, can be utilized in a playfully experimental fashion, to explore ways of moving (without distraction) from and as the peace and joy we’ve discovered as our True Nature.



Imagine a baby chick, still inside its egg but ready now to be hatched. The baby chick pecks from the inside of the egg (peck-peck-peck) while the mother hen simultaneously pecks from outside of the egg (peck-peck-peck). Together, the baby chick pecking from the inside and the mother hen pecking from the outside create the hatching: the birth of the chick.

In this metaphor, the baby chick represents the point of view of a human body-mind-world. From this point of view we engage in seemingly effortful practices – qigong, yoga, meditation – as part of a spiritual path, motivated by our desire to break out of the “shell” of dualistic suffering.

The mother hen represents our True Nature, the Nature of Mind, Pure Awareness – which always and already is “outside the shell” of suffering.

The pecking of the mother hen is the naturally effortless pull of Grace: our True Self calling us home.

Together, our Original Perfection (the mother hen) and the desire for liberation manifesting via a human body-mind (the baby chick) peck the shell until the moment of the hatching: at which point we realize that the baby chick and mother hen were never, in Reality, separate. Their separation was only apparent, illusory, dream-like. In essence, the mother and her newborn -- Pure Awareness and its manifestations -- are always and already not-two.