After Toni Packer died a few months ago, I checked several of her books out of the library. I was intending to write something about her legacy but never did (except the brief post on this blog). Now, I'm just getting around to the books. It's a re-visit for me because I also read a couple of them before I went to visit the meditation center she founded, Springwater, in 2007.
I like best the book The Light of Discovery (Charles E Tuttle, 1995). Here is a dialogue between Toni and Joan Tollifson. Joan was a student of Toni's and is an author and teacher in her own right.
"Joan: Suppose I see the same patterns coming up year after year, habits I feel stuck in. . . . I see it over and over, but it keeps happening, and I can't get out of it.
"Toni: When you say, 'I see it, but I can't get out of it,' what is the quality of that seeing? Here is where you really need to look and examine carefully. Is it thinking about your habit-patterns -- how long they have persisted, how this is never going to end, wanting to know how to fix it? This is not seeing. This is thinking. It's not an on-the-spot discovery of thought arising. To see the thought of wanting freedom as it arises is different from thinking,, 'I've had this thought pattern all my life, and nothing has happened about it, and what can I do about it?'" (pp. 11-12)
Reading this, I'm reminded of an incident in my own life. I was in turmoil over a relationship with someone that wasn't happening -- at least not the way I thought it should. It had been literally years, and one day I was in a particularly bad place, crying on my bed, when one of my teachers returned my call to her. And I told her what I was going through, adding, "I've tried everything but I can't find a solution!" She said, "It's not about solving problems."
I don't know how she knew that was exactly what I needed to hear, but something magical happened. I suppose, looking back on it now, I could say that her words gave me permission to STOP, just stop trying for a moment. We think we won't find a solution if we don't try, and practical problems are like that, but psychological/spiritual problems are just the opposite: the trying only gets in the way. So, then, at that moment when trying ceased, something opened in me, a space to view it all from I suppose, and all of that emotion I'd been trying so hard to get rid of was suddenly just fine! Not only fine but even blissful. How could it be that what I'd condemned and tried so hard to rid myself of could turn blissful? Because the feelings weren't the problem -- it was the identification with them that caused the suffering. The feelings, I'd always assumed, said something about me, about what kind of person I was. Not so.
And so, reading Toni's words in the above passage, I recognized what she was pointing to.