When we notice a cloud in the sky and simply experience the act of noticing, we see “what is” for what it is. The moment we label it as a cloud, or the category of cloud it is, or what the shape of the cloud resembles, we lose the basic reality of the cloud. We lose that elusive grasp of “what is”.
Nature, itself, has no labels nor concepts about clouds, nor whether they appear in the troposphere or the stratosphere. There is no hierarchy in nature regarding beauty, ugliness, peacefulness, nor discomfort. These concepts have come about as helpful ways to distinguish our thoughts. These concepts are helpful when we try to communicate about things.
These concepts contribute to our well-being and safety when they are used to obtain food or to receive competent medical care. Concepts enabled us to build and maintain civilizations. So, it is quite helpful to have concepts and “boxes” for various things and people.
On the other hand, sometimes one is in contact with a lover, a child, a flower, or a cloud and to experience that contact without thinking that person is a lover or a child or that the flower is a flower, or a cloud is a cloud. There is no separation between the observer and the observed. The mind is fully present in the moment. You are one with what is. The moment a thought interferes with the raw experience, separation from “what is” occurs.
This description of “what is” is not “what is” because this description is an attempt to define or categorize “what is”. The state or quality of reality is more elusive than we usually imagine. A thing like a cloud or a state of affairs like safety, or the state of the totality of things and states of being are normally thought of as reality. We may observe or use reality without conceptualizing it and being with “what is”.
Do you remember witnessing a sunset and you did not categorize it as being gorgeous, or colorful, or breathtaking, or wanting to take a picture of it for posterity? Were you simply present with the sunset with your mind being silent? This is a layperson’s way of pointing to “what is”. However, one must not mistake the act of pointing to “what is” for the actuality of “what is”. The words “what is” are only a convenient label that points to “what is”.
We might say that “what is” is neither dependent nor derivative, but simply exists. The Universe is not friendly nor hostile, nor does it actually have a purpose, it just is as in “what is”. This should not be mistaken as nihilism because nihilism is an opinion about experience and states of being.
Our modern view of the world is shaped by electronic videos, social media, news media, books, blogs, and art. These things can be helpful guideposts as we navigate our way through life, but we need to remember that sometimes they are also misleading and can cause us to wander away from “what is”.
One statement from Albert Einstein can give us pause. “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” We might contemplate that simple statement for awhile. Our preferred opinions and comforting views about existence and how life should be lived are not “what is”.
“What is” is hard to pin down. I can try to search for an abstract way to define “what is”, but such techniques lead me into the labyrinth of dreams and fantasy. The blending of objective reality and imagination can bring me a personal definition of “what is”, yet the definition is not “what is”.
Although it is difficult to communicate “what is” is, it is not really that elusive. “What is” is revealed when we least expect it. We allow the language and conceptualizing parts of our minds to relax and let go when “what is” is unmasked. Then we once again experience “what is”.