I have been an [explorer] and still am.
But I stopped asking the books and the stars.
I started listening to the teachings of my own soul
~ Rumi


It is not because I have read a few books, bathed in the presence of some beautiful beings, and participated to many retreats that I know where I am, what I am at, and can now follow the upward course of a promised, enlightened destination. I’m not like an arrow steadily cutting through the air. It’s not like that I’m afraid. I confess: I’m a lost bird. One that’s flapping its wings on the winds of uncertainty, not knowing how, where and what to proceed. I spend all my time in the forest, flying around like a mad bird, thinking that I have one thousand things to do to secure a more decent life for myself. And this is an endless, confusing activity.

I have a nest though. It has its name on the front door: ‘Awareness’. It is safe and inviting, and I go there from time to time. In it, four nestlings are eagerly waiting to be fed, screaming after me. They won’t leave me untiI I have fed them all. Their names are Peace, Beauty, Love and Happiness. Not the kinds that you can leave behind if you ask me. Occasionally, I bring a small twig to consolidate the nest, or an insect for the tiddlers. But I’ve been careless lately, attending to my own, separate needs. As a result, the children have become a little meagre.

I’m a truth seeker by the way, spending all my time searching, begging for a happier life, and in the process forgetting my own sacred parent responsibility. You would think that this quest should lead me to that very special place I have been looking and longing for all my life. Well it’s not like that. Again and again, I am drawn away from the nest, allured to go in the opposite direction.

I went to a meeting the other day, near London Bridge, in a small patch of green haven beside the Southwark Cathedral. It is a convenient place for the proximity with Borough Market draws birds from all walks of life. There were sparrows, pigeons, crows, tits, robins, magpies, all here to listen to the discourse of a beautiful skylark. Towards the end, I raised my wing and asked the question of my hopelessness. Here was the answer:

Have you heard the story of the little terrier who was running around with a bone in its mouth? Well, he got to a bridge over a pond, and looking down saw another little terrier reflected in the surface of that pond. And that dog also had a bone in its mouth. Hungering for the other dog’s bone as well as the one he already had, our little doggie began to bark, and as he did, the bone he had been enjoying slipped from his mouth and fell into the stream, lost forever. Have a little chat with that terrier in you. Explain to him that in each moment, things are just as they are, and so there is nothing to seek or to attain.” (1)

I listened, flabbergasted. How could I ever reach a happy life by thinking that what I have, or what happens to me, is not quite enough, by escaping my present, sacred duty and responsibility? What is present here and now is all there is. It is my gift from life, certainly untamed, uncontrolled, but rich and beautiful when I accept its reality, and surrender to its presence. This is not a small affair… This is a love affair! How could I not see it and expect that my path resided in turning my head away from it, and looking in another invented, mind-made direction? How could I think to control something infinite with my own separate, limited ability and self? It is like removing the entire universe with a spade.

I flew high above the highest tower of the Cathedral and headed west, my wings flapping trustfully on the dense, solid air. I recalled these other words from the skylark: “To abide in awareness, which exists prior to any particular experience or another, is freedom.” My nest is my own all given, all important reality. This is it! This is my sacred home! Where my sacred tiddlers are waiting for me to grow stronger, stouter by the day, by the hour, by the second. Here… Now…




Noticing awareness, and abiding in it requires no effort at all. You do not have to earn it, and you do not have to deserve it. It is here now, always has been, and always will be. Nothing needs to be added to this moment, and nothing can be added to it. But when I tell you this, you doubt it, and so you continue the relentless seeking — which is simply more egoic seeking. Calling it “spiritual seeking” or “practice” changes nothing but the name. Although this very moment is all we ever have, you continue to seek something “better,” something “higher,” something more “evolved,” some accomplishment you will eventually realize by following a supposed path. That fruitless search continues, and will continue until the fantasy of becoming exhausts itself and you find yourself at last, just as you always were.”
~ Robert Saltzman



Text and photo by Alain Joly

The quotes are by Robert Saltzman



(1) This quote is in Robert Saltzman’s book, ‘The Ten Thousand Things’.

The other quotes and the title are excerpted from Robert Saltzman’s interview in non-duality magazine

– ‘The Ten Thousand Things’ – by Robert Saltzman – (Non-duality Press)

Robert Saltzman
non-duality Magazine
– A beautiful review of ‘The Ten Thousand Things’ by Miriam Louisa Simons


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2 thoughts on “The Fruitless Search

  1. You have a very nice writing style Alain! There are a few things I’d like to discuss in the quotes you’ve used. One states “Noticing awareness, and abiding in it requires no effort at all.” What I find these days is that a lot of teachers and authors are stating fairly ancient things, then putting their signature on them. “the teachings OF Mooji” etc.
    The thing I quoted is just pure Dzochen… “pointing out Rigpa” (or awareness). It’s indeed a great thing to recognize, but what I think is important to remember is that it’s still old news that belongs to no-one, not the “discovery” of some modern day author. Gilbert Shultz says the same thing but calls it “awakeness”, Saltzman uses “aliveness.” It doesn’t matter what you call it, but we have to be careful to not “celebrate” authors and teachers, or ascribe wisdom to “them” when they are just re-naming and re-packaging ancient clarity.

    Another Saltzman quote: “you find yourself at last, just as you always were”, is worth unpacking.
    There are some important issues that are missing. I think T.S. Elliot covers much more important ground in his famous Four Quartets with: “the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
    The difference is yes, you’re where you started, but you’re simply not “as” you always were, you’re knowing the place for the “first time.” Anyone who has honestly had a permanent, abiding shift in perception, (normally called Awakening) will state that the view is radically different from anything they’ve ever experienced before.
    This shift can happen to people that are not even seeking, NOT looking for it, zero interest in something “better,” or “higher.”
    Suzanne Segal is a well known example of someone having a profound awakening, that was not sought in anyway. (she was just stepping onto a bus!)

    Regarding your excellent Rumi quote:

    “I have been an [explorer] and still am.
    But I stopped asking the books and the stars.
    I started listening to the teachings of my own soul.”
    ~ Rumi

    The “still am” part is great! It KEEPS unfolding. Yes, books can’t take you to this “place.” With the way Robert Saltzman aggressively promotes his books, and denies “the soul,” one could be easily be led to believe that he feels he’s offering something that has never been said or known before! I’m aware he’s not a “Rumi guy” whatsoever. Oh well, his loss.

    In looking at Robert’s writing, I can see that sure, some good points are made, but I’m well read, and frankly agree with many that these things have all been said before. More importantly is that they’ve been said before with a great deal more clarity and depth by the likes of Krishnamurti, Lao Tzu, John Welwood, Huang Po, Buddha, and Alan Watts etc.

    I think it’s important and healthy to question authors, figures of authority, or claims of wisdom. If we don’t, we’ll never be able to “listen to the teachings of our own soul”

    I’m glad you’re discovering these timeless aspects of our nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Radha for the compliment, always nice to hear! And for your beautiful comment! Yes, of course, but these truths are not even ancient, they are timeless. We should not be attached to the teacher that states them again, but to the reality they are pointing to. That’s why I like very simple expressions of truth that insist on looking, observing, going within. Krishnamurti used to say, what would we do if we were on a deserted island with no books, no teacher, nothing, where would we go? The real teacher is inside. I like the clarity and simplicity of Nisargadatta: “Trust nobody, not even yourself. Search, find out, remove and reject every assumption till you reach the living waters and the rock of truth.” The rock of truth, maybe, is seeing afresh, as if for the first time. The timelessness of it is what renders it so fresh. And this is already here, always available. Only hidden because we are busy with our mind, with seeking better and more, which distances ourselves from the everlasting truth of here and now. Hard to say more without digging it down. Maybe that’s the meaning of Robert Saltzman’s quote, “you find yourself at last, just as you always were.”


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