There is no need for you to leave the house.
Stay at your table and listen.
Don’t even listen, just wait.
Don’t even wait, be completely quiet and alone.
The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked;
it can’t do otherwise;
in raptures it will writhe before you.
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!
Thinking is what I’m thinking about. I think I have some understanding of consciousness taking the shape of sensing and perceiving but thinking is more elusive. Thinking is what I’m doing to try to understand consciousness taking the shape of thinking. Thinking is as much a part of the ‘illusion’ as sensing and perceiving. However, thinking is the only avenue I have to investigate yet the very act of investigating is dependent on a component of the illusion to comprehend the illusion. This entity that I feel myself to be is ‘constructed’ by the perceiving of a world, the sensing of a body and the thinking that names it all.
Metaphorically, I’m in a dream dreaming and all parts of the experience I’m having are an aspect of the dream including the thinking that ‘I’ appear to do within the dream. The thinking is part of the dream too. Within the dream, of which consciousness is the only substance, it’s taking the shape of thinking realizing this is all a dream.
I end up questioning whether or not ‘I’ can trust what thinking is thinking. How can any conclusion, any understanding I reach through thinking, itself an object, be any truer than any other object that appears in my experience? I’m confused (another thought) as to how thinking is identical to sensing and perceiving in that it is the shape consciousness is taking as this experiencing yet it is also the tool to lead me to clear seeing of the illusion consciousness is creating.
But where am I the midst of all of this? Without any question whatsoever I am present. Where and what I am are far less certain.
Yesterday listening to a talk by Spira I finally saw clearly that any sensation I experience of my body and then name is always based on memory. If I rub my thumb and index fingers together with me eyes closed and experience the sensation nothing about that sensation indicates that it’s two fingers except the memory I have that tells me it’s two fingers. The sensation by itself contains no such information as a direct experience minus the reference to memory. This is astonishing to realize that what I take to be self evident isn’t. How much of this entire experience I perceive as my life is exactly the same? Some of it, most of it, all of it? I think I’m beginning to see what exactly is meant by direct seeing.
So here I appear to be in the midst of an uncomfortable situation. If I view it only and rigorously as my direct experience, my actual experience, what do I see?
First off, where am I in this body/mind that I feel is having this experience? I can’t find me anywhere. I slowly work through body parts toward the brain. At each point I can see clearly that no ‘I’ exists there to be found. I feel strongly that I’m this body/mind here having this experience but I plainly and clearly find that ‘I’ am not here in this body anywhere.
OK, then how is it that I perceive myself to be this body/mind if I clearly see that I’m not here? What evidence do I have that is leading me to this feeling? First off, I see my body when I look down. I can hear it, too. Sometimes it smells. I’ve tasted salt on my skin. Certainly I feel my own body every time I scratch an itch. Yet I know that each of these are perceptions experienced in a single, same ‘place’ of awareness. I know this. I don’t consciously maintain this awareness but usually am drawn into the appearance of a 3D world out there rather than remaining conscious of ‘in here.’ ‘In here’ isn’t quite right either as the place in awareness that the experience is being experienced is neither in nor out anywhere. It just is. It has no location that can be pointed to. I can see this as my actual, direct experience. Every perception I have of a world out there is always being experienced in the exact same placeless place of awareness. This I know for certain. A world out there is unknowable as such.
Knowing this then it must be concluded that I believe the appearance over my actual, direct experience. How is that possible? I must have learned it (Hypnotizing Maria?). If I have the capacity and ability to see clearly now what is true, and what is true or real must always be otherwise it wouldn’t be real as reality never ceases to be reality, then I must be real, too. I must be real right now but somehow I believe something else about me.
I also know my body by the sensations I describe as being my body. Headaches, stomach aches, sore muscles, heat, cold, a massage and literally an infinite number of sensations I could name are experiences which tell me I’m a physical body navigating a physical world. Yet as I mentioned above I identify each and every one of these sensations as my body from memory. Not one of them tells me of a body without reference to a memory of same. Otherwise the sensation is an amorphous experience in the midst or awareness. If I snap the bones in my arm the pain would be incredible yet still, on sensation alone although intense, it wouldn’t identify as an arm in any way apart from memory.
Here again, the only way this can be possible is that I have learned this. I couldn’t have arrived ‘here’ and known any of this. All of these sensations would have no reference point. I wouldn’t be able to distinguish one sensation from another as a body unless I had a memory to accompany each and a learning somehow, somewhere along the way that taught me what was what.
The last aspect of my being as a body/mind that I’m aware of is my mind, thinking. I have a concept of a mind, a brain which is like the CPU of my existence. It is the seat of power in this body/mind. Yet I know that this is learned, a concept. My experience is of thoughts and images appearing in the same place and made of exactly the same ‘stuff’ as the experiences I have of perceptions and sensations. I never experience a brain or a thing called mind. All of these thoughts appear from and disappear to an unknown place. I think I think. I think I think original thoughts that are birthed within my mind. However, I have no idea where any idea emerges from or where it goes. I think in English. This is learned. How did I think before I had language to form ideas? Did I think or did I merely experience sensations and perceptions without any thoughts about them? How could a single thing I can name have a name if I didn’t learn that name from ‘outside?’ What is thought minus name? How can a single thought be said to exist that wasn’t learned? This leads me to ask, what about an original thought or thinker like Isaac Newton?
I would surmise that whatever thoughts he had all emerged from what he had learned.
But he produced original ideas, ideas which did not exist until he conceived of them.
So a thought appeared that seemed to have not been thought before?
Where did it come from?
I don’t know. It appears from the mind of a being known as Newton.
It does appear that way. You cannot find an ‘I’ when you search for one inside of you, correct?
Then you would have to conclude with certainty that Newton could not locate an ‘I’ either?
Yes, I agree.
A thought appeared and a new series of thinking followed.
It is assumed that Newton possessed some physical property as a physical being that set him apart from all the other physical beings and lead to his genius being manifest as the greatest scientist of the past half millennia.
That sounds about right.
Yet all you know at this point is that you are experiencing a series of thoughts, sensations and perceptions that inform you of what you know.
Newton exists within your awareness.
Where else can you say he exists for certain?
No where. You are experiencing your experience. You believe that you are the witness to that which is witnessed. Yet where is the border between you and what you experience. Where do you end and the experience begin?
This is an odd question. I don’t know how to conceive of the perspective you’re asking me to perceive.
Yet you are certain there is a you and a not you, a world, being experienced as reality?
But each and every time you have an experience, any experience, you and the experience are inexorably linked. When you look for it you can’t find where you end and it begins. You can’t find it because it isn’t there. It’s an illusion. You experience the shape consciousness takes now and part of the experience consciousness takes is of a you experiencing a that.
You can conceive of this more easily when you contemplate the structure of a dream. There are no physical characters in a dream, no physical space, no eyes that see. There is the experience within the dream of seeing but there is no physical, 3D person there seeing a physical, 3D scene with physical, 3D eyes. The entire seeing is the shape awareness, consciousness or imagination takes as the dream not in the dream. Your dreams are a lesser form of what you call reality.
Therefore your experience of an individual known as Isaac Newton is an experience of your experiencing. The experience you are having is the shape consciousness is taking now as the experience you are having. This entire happening is built from thinking, sensing and perceiving. This is what you are always and only ever experiencing. There is no world that you can know as such. Everything that you perceive as being objective and having an existence independent of you can only be perceived via the tools of perception you have. You are seeing whatever your perceivers tell you is there. You can never experience ‘there’ as such. Therefore, ‘there’ doesn’t exist. Isaac Newton is whatever you perceive him to be. All you can say is that your thinking, sensing and perceiving of him have produced the experience of him you’re having.
Let’s go a step further. Thinking is happening. Sensing is happening. Perceiving is happening. Where are you in the midst of all this?
I’m not sure. I guess I would say, where aren’t I?
Exactly, exactly, exactly correct. ‘You’ aren’t ‘here’ thinking, sensing and perceiving a ‘there.’ You are thinking. You are sensing. You are perceiving. You have learned to be a consciousness in a mind in a body in a world. That isn’t ever your actual, direct experience. You and the experience are not two.
Who am I? Who’s thinking? Thinking is the shape I’m taking as thinking happens. I am consciousness. I am awareness. In trying to understand Advaita teaching I’ve perceived thinking as something that happens in consciousness but not something I’m doing. I’m the witness apart from the witnessed watching it unfold.
Yesterday I saw how I am not separate from anything I witness. I am the experience. I am the witness as the experience not of the experience. Therefore, when a thought happens how am ‘I’ separate from the thought? I’m not. As much as every other part of my experience is a single, unbroken scene upon a screen, thought is a part of that as well. As I am the consciousness within which all of this appears then thought is a part of that appearance, too.
No matter which ‘part’ of the experience I ‘see’ I realize that it is all the shape consciousness is taking now. The ‘I’ that seems to function as Dylon is ‘seen’ as much as the tree over there or the car going by. Dylon does not see the car. It, including Dylon, is all ‘seen’ by me/consciousness. Dylon is thinking and seeing and that is being ‘seen’ by me which is consciousness but the seeing is the experience and there isn’t a separate witness to the experience. The seeing and the seen are a single thing. Thinking is within that seen scene.
So I sit and write and think as I write. Who am I? I’m here, I’m present yet I am nowhere I can be found. That’s amazing. I am; there is absolutely zero doubt. There is precious little after that of which I can say the same. I know that I am. I don’t know what I am. Sitting and writing and thinking are all being experienced but this ‘I’ I think I am doing these things cannot be found. I have an experience of thinking, sensing and perceiving. I know them to all be being experienced in a single place of awareness. Yet the experience of a me here and a not-me out there is powerful and persistent. The sense that there is a me here in or as this body/mind thinking is seemingly self evident. Yet I know at the same time that the experience I’m having of thoughts is happening in and made of exactly the same ‘stuff’ as the words I see on the screen before me. I’m having an experience of the experiencing of consciousness. The place of awareness where all of my experience is occurring is the actual experience that’s happening.
This is astonishing to behold each time I get close to ‘seeing’ it. The usual way that reality is perceived is all this different stuff out there existing and being apart from a solid me here as this body/mind and all of it is being experienced by a subjective brain in my head. Yet that is not my actual experience when I stop and look, really look.
My entire experience of reality is completely constructed from three things: thinking, sensing (the body) and perceiving (the world). These three things are what I’m actually experiencing now. I don’t experience a brain. I experience thinking and images seen in a placeless place that I conceive of as ‘up here’ in my head or brain. I don’t experience a body. I experience a grand set of sensations, which are all compiled faster than instantaneously, in exactly the same placeless place as my thinking and conceived into a body. I don’t experience a world out there. I experience a set of perceptions which I call seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching and compile exactly as my thinking and sensations were in exactly the same place of awareness and conceive of them as a world. My entire experience is happening in a single ‘place’ of awareness and I conceptualize a world containing a me containing a brain containing thoughts containing a consciousness. I conceptualize an experience which is exactly the opposite of my actual, direct experience. My actual, direct experience is of an ever-present consciousness within which thinking occurs which names a body which forms a world. Consciousness is not some miraculous epiphenomenon which emerged from a previously non-conscious piece of organic but dead matter devoid of a consciousness to perceive of such a thing as a consciousness of which it would have no facility to conceive save consciousness. Rather ‘matter’ emerged or formed from consciousness. Consciousness is sine qua non.
I’ve drifted into an intellectual argument. While entertaining the end result is never knowing. Trying to prove something like this feels closer to belief than knowing. Truth doesn’t need to be defended, it’s truth. It is whether anyone knows that it is or not. Once known no argument can sway what is known. An intellectual argument is an attempt to convince someone of something that neither ‘knows.’ Teaching is an effort to allow the unseen to be seen, to reveal what is.
This drifting takes me away from the seeing I seemed to be moving toward. Advaita would tell me nothing ever moves toward or away from anything. There is only One, movement is an illusion. It’s as though I was peeling back layers, watching what was emerging intently and then some shiny object grabbed my attention and I looked away and now I can’t quite remember where I was looking. There was a peace and happiness in the looking and I want to return to that place. Yet there is no place. I am that place. There isn’t anywhere to go. I’m already there. However these are just words. I’m repeating what I’ve heard, what I believe, what I think. None of it is knowing. Soon.