Who are You?
What would you reply?
Probably ninety-five percept of us will say, "I see a white dot".
But what about the blackboard? Such a big blackboard and yet we focus on a white dot.
Because this is the pattern of the mind: We are accustomed to looking at the figure not the background.
It is this fascination with the trees instead of the forest that can blind us to a far greater awareness of reality.......we seem to have a real problem with seeing the bigger picture. We will see clouds and not the sky; see individual life 'forms' instead of feeling the Presence of life itself; recognise thoughts instead of the Consciousness that all thought arises in; and focus on specific news, 'good' or 'bad', without recognising the one perfect process of Self-realisation that is always going on in the background.
But no matter how convincing an argument someone makes that this or anything else is true, it does us little good. Why? Because words alone don't change us.
The trouble with words
Maybe we've read that we are capable of so much more than we can imagine, that we are not limited to what the body is capable of, or we easily transcend and heal our 'mortal frame'. These ideas can seem very attractive but are rarely compelling or useful, because they describes something that is not in our own field of experience; and words alone can never take us from one experience to another. Thought and intellect don't move us forward, they can only take us to the water edge, to the point where are willing to doubt what we think is true in order to open ourselves to a greater awareness and knowing. We can intellectually understand the ideas that words convey, but to really 'know' something, to let self-change happen, we need to be able to experience it for ourselves without the veil that our thoughts and beliefs impose.
But why would we want to attempt to believe what others tell us anyway? Don't we all have the capacity to look at 'what is', and then report back what we find? We all do have this capacity but so very rarely use it, preferring instead to talk about what we think and believe is true. We value our opinions and beliefs so highly we mostly avoid asking ourselves the most fundamental questions; and forget to use our own power of observation to simply show us 'what is'.
So, instead of just adding to the slush-pile of philosophical debate or relying on any self-help snake oil, we can take a far simpler and more direct approach to the most fundamental of all questions, "Who am I?". We can just sit still for a few minutes, temporarily suspend our understanding and past judgements about who we think we are, and then take a direct look and take note of what we see.
Here's a little experiment to try. It's as well for the purpose of this exercise to do whatever you need to do, to not have the act of actually reading the words be a distration from doing what the words suggest.
Take a few moments now to let your mind relax a little.
Just as we can be aware of the feelings and movements in our body we can also step back from our thoughts and simple watch them.
We are not normally aware of our thoughts - one thought arises which then leads to another and then another, until we become lost in our own world. But right here, right now, step back in your mind and simply be aware of your thoughts as they come and go.
Just watch them for a few moments, nothing more. Simply sit still and wait for a thought to arise and then just be aware of that thought without following it or attaching any meaning to it. This is something we can all do. Simply watch them slowly come and go.
Feels good doesn't it?
And just watch that thought come and go too.
Now, as we are doing this, simply be aware of who is doing the watching, the feeling of your own Presence.
Who we think we are, our self concept, is in the realm of thought - those things that we are stepping back from right now and are able to watch. But who we really Are is who it is that's doing the watching.
You can see now that they are two distinctly separate entities. Who we really Are is the observer.
As we are aware of our Self watching our thoughts, recognize now that who we really Are cannot be known or deducted from thought. Who we really Are can only be known through this awareness, through direct experience.
This is a simple yet profound understanding that is easy to forget but can stand us in great stead.
So what was the point of this little exercise?
It can help us see that who we think we are cannot be true. Who we think we are is bound up in thought - those things our real Self has just been watching. As we start to step back from our everyday thinking mind and allow ourselves to relax deeper into the experience of our true Self we recognise it as far more intelligent, alive, creative, loving, resourceful and unlimited than anything our thoughts could even conceive of.
With a little practice in stepping back and simply observing our bodies and thoughts in motion we begin to not only recognize that who we thought we were is tied up in these things that we see changing, but also recognize that this true Self that is doing the watching, is in itself unchanging. Our true Self isn't made up of matter that can be destroyed or thoughts that come and go; it is the pure intelligence that is aware of these things. It has no beginning or end, it never grows old or gets tired, it doesn't need to struggle to achieve anything at all, needs no maintenance whatsoever and isn't constrained by any limited self- concept or belief.
As this awareness of our own Presence becomes more and more tangible to us we also start to recognize, incredible as it may seem, that although our genius is expressed in our own unique way, this Presence is the same creative intelligence that we all share. Healing and great creative works takes no effort - just the ability to get out of our own way so our own true nature can shine through. This Presence is always there, is always shining. We can never lose it, only deny it.
As we have just experienced, there is no effort or journey required to access the awareness of our true Self - it's an acceptance of what already Is and that requires no effort, just a relaxing into this feeling of Presence that is growing within us and is always trying to get our attention. Life delights to set us free, we need only stop resisting it. This is so simple, direct and easy to do it is almost universally overlooked.
Freedom and Free Will
It's because we are so trapped in our culture, in the being of being human on this planet with the brains we have, and the same two arms and legs that everybody else has. We're so trapped that any way we could imagine to escape would be just another part of the trap. Anything we want, we're trained to want." [my emphasis]......Chuck Palahnniuk
Between two clouds there is an interval and that interval is the sky. Between our thoughts there is also an interval and that is our own Consciousness, a consciousness that never sleeps. By giving more value to the intervals than the thoughts we can slow down the thoughts, let our attention rest in the intervals and discover our Freedom.
Within the world of thought and the world of form that thoughts picture, there appears to be billions of choices we could make, but what we see as choice is an illusion. Is it really a choice when our minds appear to tell us what to think and do? This is not freedom but entrapment. Freedom comes from turning our attention to the Presence that is aware of all our wayward thoughts (as we just did in the experiment) and follow that instead..... to do this is to follow our own Free Will.
A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed. It feels an impulsion...... this is the place to go now. But the sky knows the reasons and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons"........Richard Bach.
...You may have noticed that sometimes it appears as if there are two different 'me's.
There's the me that delights in playing in the world - the one that gets caught in the daily drama of our lives. This is the one that has a ferocious appetite for anything it deems worthy of it's attention: an inflated invoice, a sporting event, another grey hair, tsunamis, sex offenders, a bug in my code, global warming, that last remark he made, corrupt governments, a favourite TV show, the pretty girl that just smiled at me or economic inequities. This is the one that creates expectations and then gets riled when life has a different plan, spraying our innards with toxic bio-chemicals in righteous indignation whilst simultaneously denying any part in creating the circumstances that catch us. Some people call this the little 'self', the ego, the 'rational thinking mind', or the 'localised self'.
Then there's the 'me' that's not fazed by any of this. Maybe it's no more than a distant feeling calling us back when we get too lost in the play of life, or we recognize it again in those still moments when our masks slip and we allow ourselves to connect with someone. Although it's perhaps mostly forgotten, it's always there. This is the Self that's largely unknown because our egos would rather have us stick to the business of earning a living, raising a family or serving the community than summon the courage to deal with the unsettling immensity of what reality might actually be. Some people call this the real 'Self', actualised Self or the 'de-centered self'.
...Have you ever noticed that the things we do really well, we do without thinking too much - driving a car, riding a bicycle, knitting, fishing, brain surgery, cooking - excellence at anything is characterized by feeling and knowing. The less we think the better we seem to perform. In fact ask almost any sportsman, craftsman or professional performing at their peak and they tell us that if they start 'thinking' then performance often falters and mistakes are made. Those that report being in that elusive flow state report a total lack of thought or effort - just a feeling of oneness with what is happening and an inner knowing that faultlessly guides their actions.
This is the common thread that runs through all experiences of ‘flow’ and, if you remember those moments in your own life you can verify this is true; whether it's an athlete breaking a world record, a musician composing a great song or a mother in deep conversation with her child, we here about a state of feeling, of just knowing, with no thoughts to disturb the direct experience of what is happening and our response. Ironically as soon as a thought enters such as 'wow this is incredible' or 'my God we're doing fantastic' or 'this feels good', the flow disappears. Then, the more we try to recapture it the more elusive it becomes.
This is true for learning something new too. Watch anyone who is naturally good at learning (a baby learning to walk and talk, a teenager creating a web page etc) and you'll see the same thing, when we are in as state of open awareness, directly experiencing something instead of thinking about it, we learn naturally and easily.
The same applies to problem solving as well. Isn’t it when we are happy and relaxed, not trying, that we get inspiration and insight into the problems we are ‘working on'?
What about the relationship between thoughts and happiness?
If we think back to anytime in our lives when we were truly happy, we weren't thinking, we were engaged fully in life because there was no thought interupt our direct experience of what was happening and our relationship with the people around us...... we were in a state of mindfulness, thought-less-ness if you like.
If you told me you were happy when you won the million bucks on the lottery, or you finally got something that have wanted, or some problem you had was solved, I'd have to point out that the happiness you felt was not caused by the thing itself but in the temporary peace of mind we feel when the 'want' or 'fear' or the 'financial concern' had gone (I say temporary because it's mind's nature to keep finding more 'fears' and 'wants' and 'problems' even if it's a want to no longer be beholden to anymore 'wants').
If anything, it seems that our everyday thoughts are impediments; and it's when we get out of our own way, stop thinking, that our innate wisdom, natural talent and joyful essence has an opportunity to shine through.