So who am I? I know, I really understand, that I’m not my body. There is no part of this body if removed I no longer exist. If I remove my arms I’m still me. If I remove my legs I’m still me. If anything I might think I would lose me if I remove the head. I know this body itself can’t exist without my head (no outside help allowed). But I can’t point to one area of my head or brain and say if you remove that one part I no longer am me. I’m not a brain specialist so I don’t know which parts are integral to the continued functioning of this body but I know there is a rich medical history of brain surgery where huge chunks of brain are removed and the person continues on as before. There’s also significant record of a given part of the brain thought to be responsible for a particular bodily function appearing to get rerouted after surgery. These kinds of examples go on and on. The point being that I’m unaware of a single section of the brain that I could point to and say “I” live there. I would consider the brain a part of the body.
The mind is something else. Since I can remember I’ve always understood the mind and the brain to be the same thing. I see this differently now. The brain is an organic appearance necessary to the apparent running of this apparent body in this apparent physical realm. The brain runs all the autonomic functions of the body and is responsible for tasks. It runs the body, as it were, but it is not thoughts. Thoughts are the mind. From Spira’s examination of direct experience my entire personal experience of mind is thought. I don’t actually see my brain. I have no direct experience of my brain. What I do experience unendingly, 24/7 (while awake or dreaming) are thoughts. There are the briefest of pauses between thoughts but there is a continuous, steady stream of thoughts running through my awareness. That’s my direct experience of mind, period. If I add in emotions and feelings as something of the mind I find upon careful consideration that these are thoughts as well. I may experience an energy pattern, so to speak, a sensation of sorts but to call this energy a feeling or emotion is to conceptualize that energy pattern I experienced directly into a thought labeled as some object: a feeling or emotion.
That’s incredible. This leads me to an awareness that everything I thought I’ve taken for granted as a given for as long as I can remember isn’t a given at all but a learned conceptualization. My body is here; it’s as a plain as the nose on my face. So I’ve always thought. But if I see clearly that I’m not my body then what am I and what’s this body? Everything changes. If this one thing can change what else that I think is a given isn’t?
I’ve always been sure that my brain was the seat of who I am. My thoughts are the basis of the me I am. Yet, during the pauses between my thoughts, no matter how brief, I continue to be aware. When a thought ends I don’t. Somehow I’m not my thoughts. Somehow I’m the something behind and before my thoughts. My thoughts are not something of me but rather something I observe and am aware of. My thoughts are a part of the awareness I am but so is my body. These are objects that I’m aware of rather than being the very thing(s) I am. Therefore, who am I?
This is where the mind encounters a cliff it can’t scale. That’s a concept to try to visualize what happens at this point. This is the seeming impossibility of ND and all attempts throughout time in every conceivable approach known to understand and answer this question. What I am isn’t a concept. What I am can’t be described. How can that be?!? My mind reels at the thought of no-thought. How can something be that can’t be described. In all the time that ND has existed all efforts to describe this ineffable something have resulted in descriptions of what it isn’t as the only way to get at what it is. No matter how much “progress” one may feel they make toward understanding, the mind recoils at some point and grasps relentlessly for a concept to hold. Mind works in the realm of concept. It can’t conceptualize a non-concept. It is an impossibility and so here we are. We can’t figure this out. It is un-figure-outable! And then, as if that weren’t enough of an utter mind-fuck, I can’t stop trying to figure it out. I can’t stop my mind from being my mind. I get these sublime moments of clarity that I can’t begin to describe even to myself let alone in some kind of string or words and thoughts. I gain a momentary knowing, a visceral knowing and then my mind snaps in and tries to “understand” what has just happened. But it isn’t a concept and my mind can’t describe it and it can’t be shared through any words of what it is and so everything just stops.
Somewhere in the midst of this is where enlightenment happens. Here again, words are tricky. “Happens” suggests an experience in time. But this thing, this happening, is of a something that’s outside of time. Again, words are utterly in the way but this is my mind trying to make sense of something un-sense-able. It appears to me that once an apparent individual has had this non-experience experience their ability to “see” this whole thing is changed in such a profound way that they no longer struggle over the paradoxes and indescribability of this Reality. Amazing!