Imagine that you are floating weightlessly
in the vast ocean of limitless space . . .
Now imagine that this vast ocean of limitless space
Where are you now?
Imagine that you are floating weightlessly
in the vast ocean of limitless space . . .
Now imagine that this vast ocean of limitless space
Where are you now?
‘To give your sheep or cows a large,
spacious meadow is the way to control them.’
~ Shunryu Suzuki
You might hear a spiritual seeker, or possibly someone who meditates, say, ‘If only I could control my thoughts, stop my thinking, I could find lasting peace and happiness.’
To paraphrase Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, if you want to control your sheep or cows give them a large pasture. If you want to control your thoughts, give them a vast space in which to go through their magical dance of appearing, lingering, and disappearing.
If you give your sheep or cow a large pasture, they will not try to break through the fence to find something to eat or a place to run free. They will be happy having such an expanse of land in which to graze, play, and rest.
Ultimately, there is no need to control your thoughts. In what do they appear? A limited, confined space? No, they appear in the unlimited realm of awareness. We think our thoughts are confined to the brain in our head, appearing in our mind, but if this were true, with the number of thoughts we have over the course of a day, month, year, or lifetime, our brains would explode!
All experiences occur in awareness, in which no limits have ever been found. All things, that is, all objects, that occur in awareness, including thoughts and feelings, have limits. There is nothing that we know that doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and an end. Except for awareness itself, the knowing element in all experience.
We don’t actually ‘know’ awareness, as it has no objective qualities and is therefore unknowable.
But awareness knows itself – knowing knows knowing. And at our core, this is who we are, who we all are. We think that we are a body-mind made up of a cluster of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions. And this is true on a relative level, that is, in relationship to other body-minds. But this is how all conflict and unhappiness arise – from the belief that we are separate individuals, who must defend our own particular positions and opinions, which are founded on the false premise that . . . we are separate individuals.
In fact, there are no separate individuals, only unique manifestations of awareness. Set aside your temporary attributes that make up your-body mind, as they are, in the truest sense, not real. Settle into your unshakeable self, that which knows all experience, yet itself is not an experience.
The terms ‘Set aside’ and ‘Settle into’ are a bit misleading. It implies that an action or actions must take place in order to be your, our, unshakable self, which actually takes no effort whatsoever. Think more of a raindrop falling from the sky and melting, dissolving, into the ocean.
‘You can lucid dream, in which you know you’re dreaming, but even then, when you’re lucid dreaming, you still perceive the dreamed world from the localized perspective of the dreamed character. It’s just that you realize the whole thing is taking place in your own mind.’ ~ Rupert Spira
Awareness is to the waking state as the dreamer is to the dream state. In other words, just as the dream is nothing other than a manifestation of the dreamer’s mind, the experience of the body, mind, and world is nothing other than a manifestation of awareness.
If you trace our experience of the body, mind, and world back to its source, you arrive at awareness. That is, if you have experienced the infinite and eternal nature of awareness. If you have a limited view of awareness, you believe that it resides somewhere in your body, or perhaps your mind, and with that belief it follows that all seven point nine billion of us have our own personal awareness. But if you look at our actual experience that is not the case. It’s the opposite.
If everything in a dream is made out of the same stuff, the dreamer’s mind, why isn’t it possible that everything in the waking state is made out of the same stuff, awareness?
Just as the dream world, which seems entirely real to the dreamed character, is a product of the dreamer’s mind, the so-called waking state, the ‘real’ world of the dreamer, is the dream world of awareness and only made of awareness.
In the dream state, the dreamed character thinks that it is moving and acting in its own world of people and objects when, in fact, it is moving in a world created solely by the dreamer. There is nothing there other than the contents of the dreamer’s mind.
In the waking state, we think that we move and act in a world of people and objects when, in fact, we are moving in a world created solely by awareness. There is nothing in our so-called world other than a manifestation of awareness.
Waking up to the truth of our existence in the waking state would be similar to lucid dreaming. i.e., we ‘wake up’ in the dream. Just as we know that we are moving and acting in a dream world when we are lucid dreaming, we know that the waking state is nothing more than objects, selves, and experiences made of awareness.
The dreamed character in a lucid dream has a kernel of the waking state mind – it knows that it is dreaming and can act in a way that is possible in the dream world, e.g., it can manipulate the circumstances, breathe in water, fly, etc.
The character in the waking state contains a kernel of awareness, although this fact is often obscured by thoughts, images, memories, feelings, sensations, and perceptions. Even though this knowing presence never comes and goes, the waking character often associates his or her existence with the temporary, and therefore not real, attributes of the body, mind, and world.
But it’s more than that. It’s not that the dreamed character contains a kernel of the waking state mind, or that the waking state character contains a kernel of awareness, because that would be like saying the clouds contain a patch of sky.
The fact is that everything is made of awareness – the contents of the dream, the body-mind of the dreamer, and the world in which they both appear.
There is only one thing going on, awareness, and we are that.
All good things must come to an end. In fact, everything, every thing, good, bad, or neutral, must come to an end. It is the nature of experience. All things appear from somewhere, linger for a period of time, and then disappear, vanish into . . . what?
Sit in silence. Observe a thought arising in your awareness. How long does it last? A few seconds, a minute? Then it’s gone like a cloud dissolving in the sky. Where does it go?
The same goes for all of our experiences of the body, mind, and world. Feelings come and go, sensations come and go, perceptions of the world are constantly coming and going. Where do they come from? Where do they go?
All things arise from somewhere and vanish into somewhere.
Where is this somewhere where all things come from and return to?
Just look to that which never comes and goes.
All things come and go, but our awareness of them is ever-present, unchanging, undisturbed by whatever occurs in the body, mind, or world.
Awareness exists prior to any experience. Before any thought, sensation, or perception arises, awareness is. Can you know a thought without the awareness of it? Does a thought come from somewhere outside awareness? Where would that outside be? Try to move away from your awareness. Try to move outside awareness.
Obviously we can’t. No matter where we go, awareness is. And as nothing arises outside of our awareness, every observable thing must be made out of awareness. And if everything is made out of the same stuff, the stuff of awareness, there can be no perceivable separation between things.
And what is this stuff of awareness? What are its qualities?
No boundaries can be found to awareness. It is limitless, or infinite.
All ‘things’ come to an end, but awareness is never not here. It is timeless, or eternal.
This is your essential nature, our essential nature, as there can’t be more than one. Where is there room for two in the infinite?
And as the infinite cannot be divided, we can say that our shared essential nature is indivisible, again leading to the conclusion that there are not two things going on in the body-mind, world, or universe. And where we find no separation, we find love.
The phrase ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ commonly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, is often heard around self-help and self-actualization groups, as well as in numerous spiritual and political circles. It’s a wonderful concept: instead of trying to change others to lead a better, more conscious life, change yourself first and lead, inspire, by example.
But change is just that, change. In other words, we change the image or behavior of ourself in the hopes that it will rub off on others. Who is to say that our ‘change for the better’ is good for someone else? And if we can change once, what’s to say that we won’t change again, perhaps in another direction?
For a more stable and conscious society, shouldn’t we be trying to locate that unchanging element which is common to all of us? Something that we can all relate to as a neutral starting point for dialogue and action?
Our body-minds, made up of mortal flesh and bone, are a constantly changing flow of thoughts, feelings, sensations, sights, sounds, tastes, textures, and smells. Granted, some changes are imperceptible or gradual, and others more obvious, but there is constant change, nonetheless.
But there is an unchanging element to our experience, an unchanging element to our being that has been with every one of us for our entire lives, and is with us now at this very moment.
What is this changeless element? How do we identify it? How do we identify anything? We acknowledge its presence and observe its behavior.
With a simple investigation, you can discover for yourself the changeless element to your being. Sit quietly for a moment. Notice a thought as it comes to your attention, lingers for a short time, and then disappears. The thought comes and goes, but that which notices the thought remains.
This changeless element is that which notices all experience of the body, mind, and world, but is not itself an actual experience. All experiences come and go, but that which knows all experience doesn’t come and go with them. This is the changeless element to our being.
Once we identify this changeless element to our being, we might think that it is unique to our personal self. But upon further investigation, we discover that this changeless element is not in our personal self, our individual body-mind, but that our individual body-mind, our so-called separate self, is in this changeless element.
You can check the validity of this for yourself. Ask yourself, can anything exist outside of this changeless element? If you say yes, where would it come from? If you look carefully, no boundary can be found to that which knows all experience, and there is no time when it is not present. In other words, it is infinite and eternal. We have to conclude that nothing can exist or come from outside of this changeless element, and, this being the case, we can further conclude that we all must be made out of it. We are all unique manifestations of the same limitless, timeless stuff. All one. Not two.
Instead of being the change that you want to see in the world, discover the changeless being that you want to see in the world – the open-hearted, clear-seeing, right-acting being that we all are at our core. Maybe, just maybe, this might inspire someone else to do the same.
When we agree with someone, we are said to be ‘seeing eye to eye’. When we don’t see eye to eye, it can lead to a minor disagreement between two friends or a brutal war between nations.
But what is this eye that sees? And what does it actually see?
Just as a drum doesn’t do the drumming, the eyes don’t do the seeing. A drum is a vehicle for the rhythms played by the drummer, the eyes the vehicle for the seeing done by the seer.
Who is the seer? Isn’t it that which we call I? As in, I see?
Examining this I, we first discover the obvious: we each call ourself I.
What is this I that we so easily use to identify ourselves?
The common definition used by billions of us is that this I is made up of our individual body and mind, with all of its associated attributes of thinking, feeling, sensing, and perceiving. But these attributes are all temporary, ever-changing, and totally unreliable when it comes to discovering our real identity.
Our experiences of the body, mind, and world are constantly changing, but the awareness of, the knowing of these ever-changing experiences is ever-present and unchanging.
And this unchanging awareness is common to all of us. It’s as though life is a grand play, with one master actor able to don billions of different costumes and take on a multitude of roles. Beneath every unique costume is found the same actor, the same being, the same awareness.
If we look at the nature of this awareness, we discover that it has no limits or boundaries, no point at which it ends and something else begins. Or, in other words, that it is infinite. And if we continue with our investigation, we discover that there is never a time when it is not present. This being so, we can say that it is timeless, or eternal.
For a true coming together, especially when it comes to relationships, shouldn’t we be seeing I to I? Awareness to Awareness? It’s actually not a question of shouldn’t we be seeing I to I, but recognizing the fact that this is the way we see, the only way we see. If we remove our costume of the imagined individual self for just an instant, our true character, which is not a character at all, is revealed.
We think that we either see eye to eye, or we don’t, but in fact, we only ever see I to I, or aware presence to aware presence. You can tell in another’s eyes which one is looking at you. You either see eyes clouded by the limits of the conditioned separate self, or the shining eyes of pure awareness.
There is a new math, or perhaps it is as ancient as the stars: ‘I’ plus ‘I’ does not equal two ‘I’s. I plus I equals I. There is only one I, the I of Awareness, and you, we, are that: One Shared Being.
So even though we might appear to be strangers, we are really cosmic lovers: inseparable in essence, one without a second. To quote Rumi:
The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
Once you discover that there is no self, and therefore no other, your relationship with all things, animate and inanimate, changes dramatically. You no longer say, I am this and you are that, but that we are this and that, or simply, we are.
We distinguish ourselves from others by our individual body-minds. We each have our own unique body type, our own private thoughts, conditioned as they may be, our own feelings, sensations, and perceptions of the world.
But when we examine our personal attributes closely, we uncover the truth of our being: there actually is no individual self. All of our characteristics are ever-changing, temporary occurrences, no more real than a cloud in the sky. Yes, just as a cloud appears in the sky, we appear for a moment in time, but then, just as the cloud dissolves back into the sky, we, that is, the body-mind, come to an end and, one way or another, returns to the earth.
What is the only thing in our experience that does not appear or disappear? Isn’t the one unchanging element in all experience the knowing of it? Discover this knowing element in yourself right now. What is it that knows your present experience, such as a thought?
Observe a thought as it arises in your mind – it appears, seemingly out of nowhere, lingers for a moment, and then disappears. In what is this all occurring? Don’t say ‘mind’, as mind is just a part of our temporary body. It is something beyond mind.
Whatever it is, you can’t really name it, you can’t see it, hear it, or touch it, but it is undeniably present and aware. A knowing within us that is always here.
We do try to name it, calling it Consciousness or Awareness, perhaps God or the Absolute. But it needs no name, as it exists before, during, and after any attempt at conceptual identification. It just is, and at our core, this is who we are.
Examining the nature of this consciousness, we find that it has no beginning or end, and is therefore limitless or infinite. And upon further reflection, we realize that it is never not here, thus it is timeless or eternal. And then it dawns on us that there can’t be two of something that is infinite and eternal. It would be like trying to make room for two skies.
With this ‘not two’ being a fact, where can we find an ‘other’? We are all made out of the same stuff, the same consciousness or awareness. When we look at each other through the eyes of consciousness, I becomes you and you becomes I. I is you, you is I. Whether we recognize it or not, there is only one thing going on. Knowing this, our interactions in the world are spontaneous and true.
So do unto no others as you would have them do unto no self and all will be golden.
‘In my meetings in Europe and America I have asked thousands of people if they were ever asked by their parents, teachers or professors who or what it is that knows or is aware of their experience, and not a single person has yet answered in the affirmative.’ ~ Rupert Spira
Who or what is it that knows or is aware of our experience? We say ‘our’, because whatever it is, whether we know it or not, it is shared by all beings and things.
Most of our problems are the result of acting out of ignorance. That is, we act while ignoring our true nature. To overlook the fact that awareness, our core essence, is personified by the dissolution of separateness between self and others, and whose qualities are peace, love, and happiness, is to miss being human.
We talk about reform, revolution, ending racism and bigotry, closing the economic divide between the rich and the poor, as we have done for thousands of years without any lasting results. All attempts for positive change falling on increasingly deaf ears. Ignoring ears.
A dear old friend has proposed that the only way to revitalize, reenergize, reinvent, our visibly crumbling society is through revamping our educational system.
We are to blame for the current condition of the planet. Or, more specifically, our ignorance is to blame. Ignorance drives our downfall. Out of ignorance we choose leaders with no leadership qualities, who only serve their own separate self-interests, representing our collective self-serving egoic needs. Out of ignorance we defend, often to our deaths, our beliefs and opinions against those with opposing beliefs and opinions.
To act with compassion and clarity gives us the greatest chance of balancing inequities and wrongdoings created by ignorance. And the only way to do this is to discover our true nature – that within us that is ever-present and aware; that which knows all experience but itself is not an experience. All experiences come and go, but aware presence doesn’t come and go with them.
Education is the key to positive and lasting change. It is the responsibility of parents and educators to ask themselves who or what it is that knows their experience, and, in the process, discover that their true nature is infinite and eternal consciousness. Then to ask their children, their students, the same question. With a mutual discovery of our real identity, ‘our’ being central to this understanding, the idea of separateness and living a life of division will dissolve. In its place will be revealed the timeless and limitless qualities of absolute awareness. We will then effortlessly act with compassion and clarity rather than out of ignorance, fear, and greed. There will be no self, no other, only love.
Remove the mask of the personal self and reveal your original face.
Remove the mask of separation, division, and delusion, the mask that says I am this, I am that, you are this, you are that.
We hide behind a mask of mistaken identity. We think that we are individual selves with our own particular conditioned beliefs, often sitting in judgement of who or what is right and wrong.
Take off the mask of the ego, the separate self, and reveal your original face, your inherently intelligent and compassionate original self of pure awareness. For what are you at your core other than the knowing presence of awareness, experiencing all things, but yourself not an experience?
If you look at your awareness, that which observes the coming and going of all things but does not come and go with them, can you find any limits or boundaries? Can you find a place where your awareness ends and someone else’s begins? When asked, are you aware, we all answer yes, and this awareness is the same for everyone. We don’t each have our own individual awareness. Just as a wave on the ocean has no distinct border between itself and another wave, our assumed individual awareness has no distinct border between itself and another’s awareness.
There can only be one limitless and timeless awareness, not two. Challenge yourself to identify anything that has come from outside of awareness and you will discover the impossibility of this occurring. Where would it come from? Just as a wave doesn’t arise from outside the ocean, no object or appearance can arise from outside of awareness. And if nothing can arise from outside awareness, we, all things, must be made of it. At the core of our being, at the core of all that exists, there is only the unnamable stuff of awareness, and we are that.
Just as a wave is a unique manifestation of the ocean, you, I, we, are each a unique manifestation of this timeless and limitless awareness. Be this, as this is the truth of your, our, effortless being, before the mask of separation was inadvertently, innocently, placed over our original face, obscuring our view of reality.
Throw away the false mask of anxiety and doubt, paranoia, division, and fear, and expose the one true face, our one original face, the all-embracing, loving, compassionate, luminous faceless face of awareness.
Our actions in the world will reflect this clear and open understanding.
You don’t have to go far to discover your essential being. In fact, you don’t have to go anywhere. Does the sky have to travel to find itself?
We think and feel that we are an individual self, a body-mind housing its own personal awareness or consciousness, viewing the world through its five senses. But this is not our actual experience.
Try to imagine a skyless cloud – a cloud without a sky. Or to put it another way, can an object appear without space? Not possible.
Now try to imagine a cloudless sky – a clear blue sky. Easily done.
Isn’t it true that the sky exists without clouds, but clouds can’t exist without the sky?
Now try to imagine you, as an individual self, without the aware knowing presence that has been with you, unchanging, since you were a child. Can you remove this awareness from your body-mind? Can you take away the aware presence that knows that you exist, that says I am?
If you answer yes, you are contradicting yourself. You would have to be aware to know that you have taken away the awareness that says I am.
Just as the sky exists with or without clouds, awareness exists with or without the individual self or body-mind. Clouds appear and disappear in the sky, but the sky doesn’t appear and disappear with them. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions of the body-mind come and go in awareness, but awareness doesn’t come and go with them.
Now ask yourself, when a cloud appears in the sky, where does it come from? Does it come from outside the sky? Could it come from outside the sky? Obviously not. Where would it come from?
Then ask yourself, when a thought appears, where does it come from? Does it come from outside awareness? Could it come from outside awareness? Obviously not. Where would it come from?
Just as a cloud must be made of sky, the individual self or body-mind must be made of awareness. And if you look at the qualities of awareness no limits can be found. It never begins or ends and is ever-present. And this being the case, there can only be one. Where is there room for two in the infinite and eternal?
Identify with this unchanging, limitless, ever-present awareness and relax into the cloudless sky of our collective being. With this recognition, you, I, we, will effortlessly share the peace, love, and happiness that resides in and as the centerless center of our original self.