Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Seeing is an Act

--by Jeanne de Salzmann (Jan 30, 2012)

The question is not what to do but how to see. Seeing is the most ­important thing -- the act of seeing.
I need to realize that it is truly an act, an action that brings something entirely new, a new possibility of vision, certainty and knowledge. This possibility appears during the act itself and disappears as soon as the seeing stops. It is only in this act of seeing that I will find a certain freedom.
So long as I have not seen the nature and movement of the mind, there is little sense in believing that I could be free of it. I am a slave to my mechanical thoughts. This is a fact. It is not the thoughts ­themselves that enslave me but my ­attachment to them. In order to ­understand this, I must not seek to free myself before having known what the ­slavery is. I need to see the illusion of words and ideas, and the fear of my thinking mind to be alone and empty without the support of anything known. It is necessary to live this slavery as a fact, moment after moment, without escaping from it. Then I will begin to ­perceive a new way of seeing. Can I accept not knowing who I am, being hidden behind an imposter? Can I accept not knowing my name?
Seeing does not come from thinking. 
It comes from the shock at the moment when, feeling an urgency to know what is true, I suddenly realize that my thinking mind cannot perceive reality. To understand what I really am at this moment, I need sincerity and humility, and an unmasked exposure that I do not know. This would mean to refuse nothing, exclude nothing, and enter into the experience of discovering what I think, what I sense, what I wish, all at this very moment.
Our conditioned thought always wants an answer. What is important is to develop another thinking, a vision. For this we have to liberate a certain energy that is beyond our usual thought. I need to ­experience “I do not know” without seeking an answer, to abandon everything to enter the unknown. Then it is no longer the same mind. My mind engages in a new way. I see without any preconceived idea, without choice. In relaxing, for example, I no longer choose to relax before knowing why. I learn to purify my power of vision, not by turning away from the undesirable or toward what is agreeable. I learn to stay in front and see clearly. All things have the same importance, and I become fixed on nothing. Everything depends on this vision, on a look that comes not from any command of my thought but from a feeling of urgency to know.
Perception, real vision, comes in the interval between the old response and the new response to the reception of an impression. The old response is based on material inscribed in our memory. With the new response, free from the past, the brain remains open, receptive, in an ­attitude of respect. It is a new brain which functions, that is, different cells and a new intelligence. When I see that my thought is incapable of understanding, that its movement brings nothing, I am open to the sense of the cosmic, beyond the realm of human perception.
--Jeanne de Salzmann, from "The Reality of Being"

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On Jan 28, 2012 David Doane wrote:
 I resisted the opening thoughts in this piece.  I don't know that seeing is the most important thing -- granted, I don't know what the author means by seeing.  As for seeing bringing certainty, my seeing brings more awareness of the lack of certainty.  I do agree that I am a slave to my mechanical thoughts and especially to my attachment to them, and it is important to free myself from them.  As for freeing myself, I suppose it's good for me to free myself if I know what the slavery is or not.  Freedom is freedom.  I do agree that seeing without a preconceived idea is important -- seeing what is rather than seeing preconceptions.  As for relaxing, it is worthwhile to relax before knowing why -- what good is it to know why?  The final paragraph I particularly agree with, that is, being free from the past, being open, receptive, respectful, is the doorway to the cosmic, is the beginning of a sense of the cosmic, which is a sense that I am a part of and am one with all that is, and that is a joy of life. 

On Jan 29, 2012 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:
 I don't know.  I know Salzmann has excellent thoughts about not having thoughts.  She knows much about not knowing.  I also like David Doane's comments very much.  Being open to seeing, noticing what is, is very important for me.  My earlier training has made me more mechanical in what I do and think, and as I see that, I have a greater chance of becoming  less mechanical and more open to be less of a separate me.  I don't notice what my body tells me as much as what my thinking tells me.  If I pay more attention to my bodily sensations I would probably be wiser and more often realize that I don't know. I notice that anyone trying to say a way to live wisely is difficult since the way that can be said is not the way as Lao Tzu said.  I appreciate your giving me the opportunity to respond and I know II have warm and kind regards for everyone.

On Jan 30, 2012 A wrote:
This excerpt reminds me of a book I've been thoroughly enjoying by Michael Singer, called The Untethered Soul. In it he gives very clear, very practical explanations about how to move beyond our identity with the enslaved mind and into, ultimately, an abiding awareness that Salzmann's last paragraph describes. I highly recommend it.

Some months ago, for three successive nights, I was awakened by three insights that came to me, persistently and repeatedly, one per night. The first night's message was: "Only the present moment is real."  The second night's message was: "You can trust the present moment." The third night's message was: "Make friends with the present moment."

It's probably no surprise that now these pretty much summarize my practice, and certainly my challenge: Surrendering, moment-by-moment. Doing so, for me, seems to involve a certain amount of rational insight to initially coax the thinking mind from its constant dreaming in the foreground to letting go into taking a secondary position in the background (supplied by the first message).

With the mind's move into the background, my body sensations come alive, my hearing clears...I'm fully here. I've taken a "backward step" into the present moment. Staying here, however, is a real trick, requiring a great deal of trust, constantly practiced and slowly built (affirmed by the second message).

Some days, when I am particularly calm, I can spend longer and longer times here...successfully relaxing into the friendly universe (suggested by the third message). Slowly, gradually, I'm making friends with the present moment, with being. It is very, very enticing. Like a moth to a flame.

My intuition tells me that my goal is to have being inform my doing; being fully responsive and in service to the need at hand; rather than reactive and doing the ego's bidding. Gradually gradually.

As such, the Reality of Being, the title of Salzmann's book, clearly resonates. While I don't completely track with her verbiage or concepts, I'm pretty confident she is describing the same transformative, indeed, radical, awareness available to all of us.

On Jan 31, 2012 Edit Lak wrote:
 Hmm, Yeah – I get that we only see what we want to see,  but to see beyond the eyes of what we believe - is seeing.. Hmm, actually, I do this with reading, many times I read what I want to read, only to get letter returned, or an unexpected reply to please explain. then I read the piece that I was originally reading, only to realise, I have totally got the first readings wrong,  So, saying that, – I’m still not seeing  ;-)  hehehehe ...Ahh, we can only but try, as it doesn’t matter how calm, awakened, educated, spiritual we tend to think we are, we are only seeing what we are capable of seein at any given time, because that is what we are only  prepared to sacrifice in uor seeing, in opening up to the new  ‘reality’ 

I suppose I have experience seeing real vision though, and it wasn’t through meditation or relaxing, or chanting or nothing really. It was driving a car, pulling up to the lights, stopping and looking across the road to a mother walking with her young son holding hands, they stopped at the traffic lights, the young boy pulled his mother’s hand up and kisses it, the mother looked down at her son and then kissed ther sons head.. I smiled like the universe had just opened up, I didn’t hear any noise at all in a busy street,  But I felt bliss, peace and love...   I saw the love through others pure actions and that set something of in me..

Yeah, this paragraph is deep..It basically asks us to remove a mask of self-fear, and 'see' without that cover .. Hmm, I have seen many spiritualist say for many years that this is all an illusion, and we can overcome most things by looking inside, the outside is not real and it has no purpose or cause, yet we live the purpose and cause everyday - as we choose to push it away – So that must in itself have an deep impact and effect on one’s self seeing over a period of time..

Anyway, it’s an interesting piece of work,  One that opens the mind to much ponderings !!!!

Interestingly Thanks

On Jan 31, 2012 Nina wrote:
I find this very difficult to follow and understand.  I'm hoping that sharing and talking about this article will help.
I believe I understand that what we are brought up to believe is exactly what we "will" believe.  I do try to consider this when I am tempted to make statements like, "No, you are wrong, it is this way."  My beliefs are just that, "my" beliefs.  Is this, in fact, the message being given here?

On Jan 31, 2012 Ricky wrote:
We are ‘…a star with no name’ according to Rumi.  It is in the awareness of knowing we don’t know that expands the mind.  It is the conscious act of shaking off culture’s determinism and its need to explain with scientific certainty everything that remains a mystery.  It is the wisdom of ‘seeing’ our samskaras, our patterns of thought, and allowing the plasticity of the brain to change, to reroute these signals, to a new expansive and holistic way of moving through our daily lives that allows us that moment of clarity, so thrilling and full of insight.  ‘Seeing’ is experiencing with the heart.  Remembering who we really are…living in the present both the role of ego and the infinite Self…exhilarating, fleeting, moments. 

On Jan 31, 2012 Robert de Vos wrote:
 Without knowing her philosophy, I would say that she follows the path of Pure Land / Tibetan Buddhism which uses visualization in meditation to create a reality of another dimension and in this way prepare the mind for the experience of death as described in The Tibetan Book of the Dead. This is a useful training for understanding our impermanence and developing the mind to operate in spaceless dimensions.

On Jan 31, 2012 Mary Anne Robbins wrote:
 Once we start trying to understand we miss the seeing

On Jan 31, 2012 yinessa romero wrote:
To understand Jeanne de Salzmann, the readers should refer to the Gurdjieff ideas; Jeanne was a pupil of him for more than 30 years. will give a basic starting point to discover an amazing legacy of ideas to work with. In that website there is a short reading: "Look from Above" from Jeanne de Salzmann that can be also very useful to understand her ideas of seeing, as well as many other readings. 

On Jan 31, 2012 malinda wrote:
 I so we sit again and again looking into the mystery of unborn awareness.

On Jan 31, 2012 Ganoba wrote:
I prefer the term observing to seeing. Observing refers to the use of all the sense organs plus the mind and is much more holistic
having said that i would like observing, doing, thinking, feeling, dreaming etc to be treated as an integrated whole and not compartmentalised.
These taken together represent the essence of living being.
One more thought;
Experience is a very personal phenomenon. I have never been able to convey it to someone else, however refined my expression may be. I can't quite convey it and the other doesn't quite get it.
so the mystery of life remains and will remain forever.

On Feb 1, 2012 Robert de Vos wrote:
"Experience is a very personal phenomenon. I have never been able to convey it to someone else, however refined my expression may be. "  Hmm ... I think I can assist here. Close your eyes and walk into a coffee table. Now ask a friend to do exactly the same.  Prince Philip was asked on landing in Morocco by the local British diplomat how his flight was. Prince Philip - "Have you flown on one of these planes before?" Diplomat  - "Why, yes" Prince Philip "Well it was exactly like that". 

On Feb 2, 2012 Dinesh Mehta wrote:
 "Audio clip from this week's circle of sharing ..."

On Feb 6, 2012 Yolanda wrote:
 At the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery Steve Tainer's classes always use seeing in the same sense as Salzmann does. Seeing as a direct way of knowing. He make us practice meditation exercises to find out the meaning in our own experience. There is no need to believe in any idea, this different way of knowing is available to anyone. No secrets no mysteries, hera and now for every one who wants to go beyond common sense.

On Feb 13, 2012 MJ wrote:
 It is important to note that the credit for the image in this article goes to Leah Pearlman, creator of Dharma Comics. For more thoughtful images with profound messages go to

On Feb 13, 2012 iJourney Coordinators wrote:
 Thank you MJ. Indeed, Leah herself chooses these images from her beautiful collection of Dharma Comics, and sometimes even makes a special one for a specific passage. Thanks again for pointing to her work!

On Feb 15, 2012 Samata wrote:
 Dear Friends,

Are you well?  Right now?............I appreciate the view of action in this piece.  I feel that we humans mostly associate 'action' (that is the word 'action') with what are actually our reactions.  We call reactions actions because we are thinking and therefor unaware that we are actually a slave to reactions, which are 'acts' based in habitual tendencies.  But it seems a true act stems from an open place a place of non-condition and is lacking these normal habitual influences.

It is our story and our egoic justification of it.   Yet in 'seeing', as the author puts it, there is a freedom from reaction which is the most powerful action - a directed effort towards a still and pure observation.  If our effort (action) is carefully directed thinking will simply fade.  If we force it, thinking will be repressed.

In love and gratitude I word towards understanding.  May you be ever well.
-Samata :)

On Nov 15, 2014 joni wrote:

 Is it the ego that is our challenge?

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