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Dear Dr, Robert,

I read your article about awakening.  I also read your correspondence with James . I think he is me.  I have seen and read Adayshanti for a couple of years now and I like what he has to say.  I am also reading Nisargadatta's book I AM THAT.  I find so much comfort with him. . . so simple and to the point.  I guess what I don't have is a personal teacher or support person to talk with and I miss that.  I have had several but I seem to have lost them along the way.  What you wrote about trying and not trying struck a chord with me.  I think I have stopped trying at all because:

1. trying gets in the way and

2. I haven't known what to try anymore. 

I am out of "trying juice" I think. I have, for as long as I can remember, felt the presence of myself inside of me (if that makes any sense at all).  When I was little I remember remembering and seeing a light whenever I would close my eyes.  It seems to me like what I am seeking is here right now,not even a breath away. Problem is sticky thoughts still capture me at times and emotions get triggered. Nisargadatta says to always remember I Am That and little by little everything else dissolves. Could it really be that easy?  Thanks for your response.  All comments gratefully invited.

ask dr. robert saltzman


We have not met, so this will be the best I can do at a distance. I hope you do not imagine that I have some special magic to dispense. I really do not. If you were sitting here with me, and you and I could go into this deeply, as one does in psychotherapy, possibly I could help more, but words on a page go only so far.

That said, you seem stuck in what I call "mis-identification," by which I mean that you imagine that "you" are your body, your name, your personal history, your sex, your gender--all that stuff. I do not think that reading Nisargadatta will help with that at all, but probably only deepen the mis-identification, since now you seem to think that there is someone who can "dissolve" things by means of some practice, as if you and what needs to be "dissolved" were two separate "things." But they are not two separate things, and nothing needs to be or can be dissolved "little by little." Awakening has to be now in this very moment or not at all, and does not consist in dissolving anything.

You say that sticky thoughts still capture "me," as if you were somehow separate from the thoughts, as if some "me" existed that "has" thoughts. But that is not the case, and that seems to be the root of your difficulty. That separate "me" is simply another thought which cycles through awareness constantly, and which you constantly reinforce in a multitude of ways. To repeat, there is no me which has "sticky thoughts," and if she could only stop having them would then be awakened. "Me" is a sticky thought. The stickiest!

The thinker is the thought, not some separate entity which "has" thoughts. As long as you continue to divide the two, you will never see the freedom you desire, because that freedom does not result in leaving anything behind, or discriminating "good" from "bad," but in surrendering completely and totally, with no resistance whatsoever, to what is seen, felt, and experienced moment by moment as the one and only "reality." There is no other "you" except in your imagination which is also only thought.

The freedom you desire—and I certainly respect the desire, by the way—is here right now, and consists in being exactly what you are with no idea of improvement or of attaining or becoming anything else. Anything else you imagine you might be or could be "if only" is the impediment. Just stop!

A "you" who becomes awakened or liberated does not exist, never has, and never will. When awakening happens, "you" will not be there to see it, because the awakening occurs in the very instant that "you" is seen for what it is, a total delusion, a complete mis-identification, in which awareness, which belongs to nobody, and which is as empty and pristine as a movie screen, begins to imagine that it is whatever movie (thought) is projected upon it. The screen is not changed one whit, no matter what is projected upon it, and you—the real you--are that: the pristine screen, not the movie.

You, as an entity, do not exist. That so-called "myself" is nothing more than thought (the movie). When thought stops, "you" are not there, only awareness (the screen) is there, and the screen is not "yours," and never has been. That is why Nisargadatta said, "No wonder you are so unhappy. You spend 99% of the time thinking about yourself, and that does not exist."

I hope this helps.

Be well,


ask dr. robert saltzman

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your reply.  I am just reading it over, and  I feel completely nuts reading what you said. Not new to me, but it really hit home like a punch to the gut for some reason.  It is like you took a big stick and smacked a hornets nest.

Gratefully yours, Marilyn

ask dr. robert saltzman

Hi, Marilyn--

Well, this sounds good. If anything I wrote hit home at all, I am pleased to hear it. Far better a hornet's nest than a sepulcher.

The entire spiritual dilemma, you know, boils down to only one problem—denial. Denial that everything which is born will die. Denial that everything I want to keep—identity, possessions, friends, family, lovers, health, life—will be lost. That denial, that continual avoidance of this simple, basic, undeniable truth, obscures my true nature by forcing everything I do and everything I think to serve an unconscious strategy—a strategy of denial--so that instead of simply living, which means allowing whatever is to be, and whatever arises to arise, I continually attempt to protect myself against the pain of that simple truth: nothing that I think I have, nothing that I think I am, has any permanence whatsoever. It never did, and it never will.

Everything, Marilyn, even my imagined "self," awakened or not, dies in every moment, to be replaced in the next moment with a new version of what I think I am. Because such total impermanence is terrifying, we paper it over by creating a story of who I am. A story, we imagine, can continue. But that story, which is only a thought-form, obscures what I really am: the endless awareness in which that story, along with everything else, is born and passes away.

In each moment, Marilyn, be honest. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to which you can cling for security. Accept that fact--for it is a fact--accept that pain, stop telling yourself the story of denial, and all will become clear without any effort whatsoever.

Be well,


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