- Your consciousness of your own identity
- A person considered as a unique individual
No mind tricks
No double life
For so many years, I have posed the question to myself: “Who am I?” But after writing the two topics today on brain and consciousness, I feel a little bit foolish. You see, I have spent the last few years on a journey into myself; I have attended retreats, and almost joined a zen monastery in the desperate search to find out my true identity, but it was staring me in the face the whole time. I am me. In fact, I am, to be more precise.
“But who are you?” you ask.
“I am,” I reply.
You see, we spend so much money and time going into this by attending retreats and reading “spiritual guidance” books, all because we want someone else to tell us who we are. Now it all seems like easy money for them! Any time we start to pose ourselves the question: “Who am I?” we create division and can never see the truth. We separate ourselves into two people, one asking the question and one providing the answer. But it really is simple, and if you go into a dialogue with yourself, you will find out soon enough.
We are whole, undivided, but because thought cannot understand how it is thinking, it poses the question: “Who is it that it is doing the thinking here, me or someone else?”
Silly old thought, it is so limited by knowledge, experience, and memory that it cannot ever hope to understand itself. It is like asking a computer: “Who are you?” Or it asking itself the question! Sure it can ask the question, but because it is limited by the programs inside, it will never be able to answer the question. Do you understand?
When we perceive (become conscious of) something, we are perceiving it through the process of memory, experience etc. so it is limited; but when all conflict between the consciousness and the subconscious is ended, we are conscious of everything around us at all times.
We see the man suffering; we see the tree; we see the pollution; the grasping for power, and the greed. We do not need to take a journey into self to see it. We do not need to sit in the lotus position for hours on end chanting mantras to clear our mind, that is still conflict which is division. Do you see?
When I try to force my mind to be quiet, the forcing is the conflict, which becomes the division, and blocks us from seeing the whole. So how do we “see” it? Well, we won’t see it by reading books about it, we won’t “see” it by meditating, we won’t “see” it by abstaining from sex, and do you know why? Because we are already the whole, and all this trying to perceive it blocks it from our view.
I spent years looking for myself and “wham!” one day, here I am, just as I had left me!
We must start from the position that there is nothing more to look for, and with that comes the acceptance that we are already all that we can be. All this trying, and forcing is causing more division of self.
Although we are saying that self is whole, that doesn’t mean you will become conscious of that fact immediately, just because I have written it here. You must explore it for yourself. But do not look for anything else. You (your body and your mind, which is part of your body) are already here. What we must do is wake up to this; and the only way to do that, I am afraid, is through insight (grasping the inner nature of things intuitively).
You can sit on a cushion meditating on compassion for your whole life and never get it, because in the formal meditation you are trying to “become” enlightened; but in that very process of becoming, you divide. You are already enlightened: Trust me! Actually, don’t trust a word I am saying here, test it out for yourselves!
What does enlightened mean?
Enlightened is “make free from confusion or ambiguity; make clear”.
Now, if we are saying we are already whole but we divide ourselves through conflict, it must mean we already see clearly, but somewhere down the line (probably through conditioning, conforming, desire, education and greed etc.), our sight has been blocked by these processes of the mind.
If we are to pull down the curtains of conditioning, memory and knowledge, we first have to accept wholeness. We have to let it back in to our lives. Then comes the tricky process of “deleting” the programs that have caused the temporary blindness. This isn’t something that comes in a flash, like insight does, as it takes time to run through the code, that are – what I call – bolt-ons, or unnecessary programs. But step by step, as we deconstruct all we have, all we think we are, all we believe, and all we try to become, we will start to see more clearly.
Accepting that you are all that you could ever want is the first step in this process.
“Ok, that’s all very nice,” I hear some of you grumble, “but tell us who we are!”
But you don’t need me to tell you who you are, you know. You are a builder, a plumber, a nice man, a horrible man, a priest, a managing director, a gangster, a politician. You are the label you give yourself, or someone else gives you. You are “first in your class,” “last in your class,” “a success,” “a failure,” “rich,” “poor.” You are a label. “Funny guy,” “serious guy,” “intelligent,” “stupid.” That is your “self” you talk of.
“Oh, yes, david; he’s a very successful businessman, he also has a very witty sense of humour, but he can be a bit arrogant at times, and dare I say it, just plain rude.”
So how many labels did you find? Successful, businessman, witty, humour, arrogant, rude! All in one sentence. And as we label someone, we start to define their “self,” and they start to define it too.
“How do you see yourself david?”
“Well I guess I am positive, definitely a self-starter and a good leader, I am quite demanding of my employees and I don’t like people who don’t listen, so I guess I can be a bit ‘short’ at times. But deep down, I am a nice guy and a good father.”
I’ll let you pick out the labels in that sentence.
So when we talk about self, are we talking about the whole, the indivisible or are we talking about labels that are assigned to parts of us, like “nice” and “father.” David just is, but he would have difficulty in getting anyone to understand that.
I have a friend from a retreat where I volunteered for a short while and I used to ask him in the morning:
“How are you john?”
To which he would reply:
And that would really infuriate me. I wanted him to say happy, ok, upset, but he didn’t want to label himself. I couldn’t see it at the time but I do now.
“I just am,” he would keep saying, and it would really throw the retreat visitors.
“Oh, that’s nice,” they would say.
But he was right.
He had no need to define himself anymore than he was already defining himself by being in the room.
We wanted him to conform, we wanted him to be “like us” to label himself but he couldn’t do it. He knew he was whole, he knew he was the indivisible – and over time, I came to really understand him. And now if he was to answer the question: “How are you john?” with a “fine thanks” or “not too well, got a bit of a cold,” it wouldn’t sound true. He just was, like I am, and you are.
Why don’t you give it a go one day on your path to acceptance of yourself as the whole.
“How are you doing today?”
“I am,” and smile and walk off. That should confuse them!
But seriously, what we are talking about here is not becoming anything nor changing anything but just pure acceptance that you are. NO labels. I am.
You are not a muslim nor a buddhist. That definition instantly divides and causes conflict. No matter what you believe, do not label yourself, that is the path into darkness, not light. NO Labels. You are not a managing director, you are. You are not a criminal, you are. You are not a religious fanatic, you are. You are not a christian, you are.
Can you see? We must remove the label before we begin our journey. Please, this is so important. I want you to ponder this for a few moments. No labels.
When you stop labelling yourselves and everyone else, when you stop trying to become something, and recognise that you are the whole and the whole is you, you can begin your work. Until then, start to pay careful attention to your words.
They will either set you free, or keep you imprisoned in division and conflict. Those are the only words I can offer you.
So next time anyone asks you how you are remember what my old pal john would say: “I just am, thanks.” And let that be all.
by alan macmillan orr
“The natural mind – waking up”