Even the Butterflies
Even the Butterflies
Never To Be Found
Never To Be Lost
Never To Be Ever
Never To Be Never
‘If God were to give itself a name it would call itself I.
I is God’s name. Each of us call ourselves I.
God has given us his name to remind us that our self is his self.
The only self there is, the self of all selves.’
~ Rupert Spira
As a dedicated spiritual seeker it’s not long before you discover that there are two of ‘me’ – the individual self, made up of the body-mind living in the world, and the witness, that which observes the individual self and the world. As you investigate further, one ‘me’ emerges as more real than the other. In the end, both dissolve into pure knowing.
We think, feel, and act in the world as though we are an individual person, separate and unique from all the other beings. It’s obvious that we are all unique individuals, but if we look closely at our experience we are not separate. Nothing separates us from an other or anything else except the idea of separation. And how dependable is an idea? Dependable as using a cloud as a stepping stone to the sun.
There is an element of our being that is aware and unchanging. It exists with or without our body, mind, and world. It is the background of all experience, but is itself not an experience. Experiences come and go, but this unchanging awareness is ever-present. It is totally dependable.
If we identify with the changing elements of our being, such as ideas, emotions, sensations, and perceptions, we will be forever searching for some stability, some meaningful lasting peace, or, as the mystic Dattatreya sings in the Avadhuta Gita[i], the ‘unchanging bliss’ of pure consciousness.
The quickest way to identify the unchanging awareness within you is to notice that part of your being that is ageless.
When someone asks us on our birthday if we feel any older most of us might pause for a moment and then say no, not really. What if you were asked, do you feel any older than you did 10 years ago? Twenty years ago? Fifty years ago? You might say that my body definitely feels older, and my memory might not be as good, but there’s some part of me that does not feel any older. Where do you go when you answer these questions? Who is speaking? Which ‘me’ is speaking?
Something timeless is speaking.
This is it. This timeless element of your being that emanates from the light of pure consciousness or pure knowing. When you look at the core of all experience, the common element is knowing. Nothing exists outside this field of knowing. If you can find something that appears outside this field of knowing . . . well, you can’t.
Rest as this light of pure consciousness and know the unchanging bliss that is at the core of your being, actually, our being, as there can be only one. If we look at the qualities of this pure consciousness we discover that it has no beginning and no end and is ever-present, therefore, it is infinite and eternal. Where is there room for two in that? As Dattatreya ends the Avadhuta Gita, ‘I am everywhere, like space.’
Now back to the beginning, ‘all two of me’ – the individual self and the witness that observes this so-called individual self. This is a very interesting concept, but that’s all it is – just another one of our nebulous stepping stones.
Step beyond all concepts, all thought. Step beyond the beyond, dissolve into pure knowing, and discover the timeless self. Our timeless self.
Trying to find the Supreme Self, or Absolute Being, with the mind is like a shadow trying to find its own shadow.
‘The only thing that is constant is change.’ ~ Heraclitus
Change of all perceivable things is inevitable. As Heraclitus said, up becomes down, in becomes out, day becomes night. But to say that the only thing that is constant is change is not quite accurate.
Stop for a minute and notice your experience. Notice that your thoughts are always changing, your sensations and feelings are always changing, the sights, sounds, tastes, textures, and smells of the world are always changing. Yes, there is continuous change, but when you look deeply at your experience you discover that change is not the constant.
Ask yourself, what knows change? What is it that is aware of the change in all objective experience? Change is constantly happening, but by its very definition change itself is not constant. Isn’t something that is constant unchanging?
There is an unchanging element to all experience. What is it?
Who or what is it that notices anything? Identify that within you that observes the coming and going of all things but doesn’t come and go with them, the constant, unmoving, and unchanging aware presence that is the source of our being, the essence of our being, the background of all experience, the I that knows that I am.
This is it.
Change happens in this aware presence, or awareness, whose very nature is changeless. When is it ever not present? Does any experience affect it? It’s always the same regardless of what happens in the body, mind, and world – it is nameless, placeless, unmoving, all embracing, limitless, and timeless. And how do you find this awareness? By not looking. By not not looking. By simply being, no effort involved. You are because Awareness is.
Once you have identified this unchanging awareness in yourself, in all beings, as there can only be one that is limitless and timeless, and begin to live your life in harmony with this discovery, your essential self is less and less obscured by the ever-changing experiences of the body, mind, and world.
And finally, just as the sun shines brilliantly in the sky whether there are clouds or not, so to will your essential being shine brilliantly regardless of what happens.
And all will be brightened by your presence.
This brings to mind the final verse from the Ten Bulls of Zen:
Barefooted and naked of breast,
I mingle with the people of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden,
and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees
Why do we love flowers?
Their fragrance exudes sweetness.
Their petals epitomize vulnerability.
A combination so delicate and refined we are spellbound by their beauty, intoxicated by their scent.
Sweetness and vulnerability are the qualities of the flower that draw us in, closer and closer, to sense, to feel, to vanish for a moment into this natural world of innocent splendor.
And what does the flower do to achieve these qualities?
Obviously nothing except to simply be itself.
And where is the sweetness and vulnerability in you? In others? If the flower makes no effort to convey these qualities, what must you, I, we, do to achieve the same?
Meditate on the flower. Its delicate perfume and fragile form. Effortlessly sweet and vulnerable. Perfect in all ways.
Just like you. Just like us.
Just like all one of us.
All you need to discover is the limitless, timeless nature of awareness – that which knows the coming and going of all things but doesn’t come and go with them.
Discover this and all your questions about the meaning of life, the truth of existence, enlightenment, awakening, or liberation will be answered.
Simply look at what in you exists prior to any appearance in the body, mind, or world. Or even more simply, notice that whatever you are aware of you are not.
You are the awareness or consciousness with which all things are known. Because your nature is limitless and timeless nothing can exist outside of you.
Recognize this limitless, timeless element of your being and experience freedom from the bondage of the body, mind, and world, and in this recognition experience the one true experience, your essential self, whose nature is one of unbounded joy.
How do you recognize the limitless, timeless nature of your essential being? Look at that within you that is aware, or awareness itself, and see if you can find an edge or boundary to it. When you firmly establish that there is no end to awareness, in other words, it is infinite, then see if you can discover a time when it is not present. When you firmly establish that there is no time when it is not present, or, in other words, it is eternal, you are home free.
What else do you need to know? This discovery, recognition, understanding – the infinite and eternal nature of awareness or consciousness – dissolves all separation between self and other, you and me, subject and object, this and that, and reveals the indivisible nature of all experience. All things are made of the same stuff – consciousness if you’re a scientist or pragmatist, awareness if you come from a philosophical or spiritual background – and therefore all of our actions spring from the reverence of this oneness and promote nothing but peace, love, and happiness for all beings, all things, and all worlds, inner and outer.
Most of us feel a need to connect with others – our loved ones, our peers and neighbors, our community and co-workers, etc. Some of us feel a need to connect on a global scale, to be global citizens, setting aside our preconceptions and dogmas and connecting in some small way with the diverse cultures found around the world. But what actually connects us? Many of us think that it’s our common ideas and beliefs, our deep feelings for this or that, or our shared experiences. On the surface this seems to be the case, but is it?
To feel a need to connect infers that there is a ‘you in here’ to connect to an ‘other out there’. Two separate entities. But when looked at closely, no division can be found between a self and other, an inside or outside, here or there.
We can verify this by looking at our own experience, the only true test of what is real. If we rely on or blindly accept what others tell us we’ll never get the correct answer, never come to the same universal conclusion.
Just as all waves are made of water, all objective experiences, including that of our own body and mind, which includes all thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions, are only made of the knowing of them, the awareness of them.
And does anything come from outside awareness into awareness? Where would this outside be? Can you find any boundaries to your awareness or consciousness, a place where awareness ends and something else begins?
We cannot find any limits to our own awareness because there aren’t any. And the same goes for everyone else on the planet. And this being the case, there can’t be more than one awareness, one consciousness. Therefore, all things must arise in awareness, and it follows that all things must be made of awareness.
There are no dots to connect. It’s not even that we’re already connected. It’s that you, we, I, are manifestations of one indivisible whole. We are all made out of the same stuff, just as all waves are made out of water.
Once this is experienced, understood to be irrefutable fact, all our actions rise from the limitless, unchanging, and indivisible source. And what is the one thing that has these immeasurable qualities?
‘But first, are you experienced?
Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have’ ~ Jimi Hendrix
We are all experienced. We live our lives one experience after another. We hopefully avoid repeating old experiences that were unpleasant and often seek new experiences to keep life interesting. We might even go to extremes, thrill seekers in search of the ultimate experience, one that will take us beyond ourselves, like feeling the adrenaline rush of skydiving or meditating ten hours a day to reach a blissful state. If we have a particularly powerful experience we may spend a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to duplicate it.
Not only are we all experienced, we ourselves are an experience. For starters, each of us is someone else’s experience – the ‘subject/object-object/subject’ paradigm.
What is the nature of an experience, of all experiences? They are temporary events, arising and passing away. Experiences don’t linger, and the individual self is made up of experiences of ever-changing thoughts, emotions, sensations, and perceptions of the world.
The individual self thinks that it is experiencing all these experiences, but is itself an experience being experienced by something beyond itself.
What experiences all experiences, yet itself is not an experience, cannot be experienced?
There is an element of our being that is aware of all experience but does not share the ephemeral quality of all experience. What is this? Where is this? It can’t be named and it can’t be found, but is undeniably present at all times.
It is unquestionable that we know that we are. We are aware beings that know we are aware, but often overlook this fact and identify with the fleeting qualities of our ever-changing thoughts, moods, sensations, and perceptions. Identify with the unchanging, dimensionless awareness that is always with us and experience the changeless, formless, all-embracing source that we all share, as there can be only one. (Where is there room for two of something that is dimensionless and unchanging, infinite and eternal?)
This is the ultimate experience. No need to seek any further.