10. The Core Wound

Q: Robert, you said, “As far as I know, suffering is inherent in being regardless of what one believes or disbelieves. The idea that one can simply discard a particular belief and so do away with all suffering in life, appears, from my perspective, as a naïve form of denial called ‘idealism.’”

This is a message I have heard you deliver again and again. I have recently been reading something by a guy called Saniel Bonder, and it chimes with what you have been saying. He says, in a nutshell, that everybody feels as if something is missing at the core of life; that it is really hard to be here; that nothing is ever enough; that everyone is homeless; everyone has an anxious heart; we are always only equalizing pressures, and that this “core wound” can never be actually healed. But to become conscious of it, in it and as it, brings great relief.

These, and your uncompromising words to the same effect, have hit home to me, in spite of my protestation. I now see that the spiritual search has been an attempt to escape from this realization; that actually all I am is the plain and simple fact of my own self, being here, now, in all my brokenness and futility, bashing about like a bee in jam-jar. And that, paradoxically, is the source of great relief.

As the Zen master said “no more having to be perfect.” Rave on, Robert!

A: What you have called the “core wound” is our humanity, our mortality, our place in Great Nature—everything about us, in other words, that the seekers of “perfection” are trying to deny.

Q: Thanks, Robert. Actually, I’m checking in with you to see if my understanding is correct. I know I shouldn’t have to, but it is good to get confirmation that I’m on the right track.

A: I see no should or shouldn’t about wanting confirmation of your fresh understanding. Notwithstanding the adoration of such figures as Nisargadatta, Ramana Maharshi, etc., they all needed confirmation at a certain point, just as I did, and just as you do.

Q2: Robert, you said, “Speaking only for myself, I can feel very much an individual presence, while at the same time feeling part of a greater whole.”

  1. Do you feel an independent, separated presence, while at the same time feeling part of a greater whole?
  2. Would an independent, separated “self”, by definition, feel part of a greater whole?
  3. Isn’t being bound to that belief of separation, if such is the case, binding one to a state of suffering as long as the belief is being held?

A: I would not say that the sense of individual presence is a “belief.” I say that a sense of oneself as a living being—a human being—is an experience with which all humans I have ever known are intimately familiar. I do not ask you to agree. That is simply how it looks to me.

Instead of posing hypothetical questions, why not just look at your own life with complete honesty? Do you suffer or not? If you do suffer—ever—then your words here, particularly question number 3, constitute only a belief in hearsay, not some knowledge of your own. Hearsay may be good enough for you, but does nothing for me. If, on the other hand, you have no sense of individual presence, and so never suffer at all, then why do you care what I say?