Two Things In Common

Every human being on the planet has two things in common: birth and death. We are all born and we will all die. Beyond that, whatever else our lives might share in common depends on our culture and conditioning, and there will be very little consistency in this area when you consider that there are almost eight billion of us.

Actually, there are three things that we all have in common: birth, death, and consciousness. The beauty of consciousness is that it isn’t subject to the laws of time and space. Our body-minds are born into a world, live for a period of time, and then perish. But consciousness is always present, and therefore is never born and never dies.

And what is this consciousness? It’s that element of our being that knows all experience, but is not itself an experience. The element of our being that allows us to say unconditionally, I am, or I exist. The element of our being that knows the coming and going of all things, yet doesn’t come and go with them.

Most importantly, consciousness is the element of our being that exists prior to our being, and then manifests as a body-mind, allowing us to experience thinking, feeling, sensing, and to perceive the world through sights, sounds, tastes, textures, and smells.

And what a world it is! As manifestations of consciousness, we have this unique moment in time and space to think myriad thoughts, feel intense emotions, sense pleasure and pain, and see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the extraordinary world around us.

And then it will be gone. Not consciousness, but the body-mind, with all of its fantastic abilities, limited as they may be, and the world, with all of its wonders.

Consciousness, as it is everywhere and, therefore, everything, never goes anywhere. It never appears or disappears. It just is. Can you find any place, any object or thing, any self, where consciousness is not present? No. It would be like saying you can find a wave without an ocean.  

Look at your experience and recognize that consciousness is not in you, us, but that you, we, are in consciousness. Therefore, none of us are ever born and we will never die. Yes, our body-minds appear at birth and disappear at death, but the stuff we are made of, consciousness, is ever-present and unchanging. Infinite and eternal.

As you, I, we, are that . . .

. . . be that.

All that is.

Be The Changeless

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.

Seeing Eye to Eye

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.

Do Unto No Others

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.

All I Know Is Myself

Thoughts come and go, yet I remain.

Emotions come and go, yet I remain.

Bodily sensations come and go, yet I remain.

Perceptions of the world come and go, yet I remain.

Who am I?

I am ever-present awareness. I have no boundaries, no limits. I am infinite and eternal.

I know the coming and going of all appearances, but don’t come and go with them.

As nothing exists outside of me, I am the source of all appearances of the body, mind, and world.

All I know is myself.

Without me nothing exists.

I am fullness itself.

I am emptiness itself.

I am the I am

before

the I am.

Throw Away The Mask

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.

Skyless Cloud

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.

Die To Your Imagined Self

Die to your imagined self and abide in profound peace.

‘Imagined self’. What does this mean? You say, ‘I am this being, I am this self, and I don’t think I am imagining it.’ But is this you, this self, the real you or just an image that has been created by your conditioned mind?

The separate self we have come to call I, as in I am a woman, a man, I am old or young, etc., has no lasting qualities. All attributes of the body-mind we call the self are temporary and therefore unreliable measures of reality.

You imagine you are real, but you are only a conglomeration of passing thoughts, changing emotions, subtle or strong sensations, and endlessly shifting perceptions. What in this collection of characteristics can be considered real?

When you strip away the imagined attributes of your so-called self, what remains?

You still remain, or more to the point, your essential being, a knowing and aware presence, remains.

As you rest in this, as this, knowing presence, empty of the ephemeral, full of unchanging emptiness – your original Self – what is your experience?

Die now or die later and your experience will be the same. The knowing presence at the core of our being, devoid of the clutter of the body-mind’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions, is revealed as an infinite and eternal peaceful stillness.

No limits can be found to this great emptiness. It is always present in the background of all experience, and when experiences fade, which they all do, it alone remains, unchanged.

And, as the background of all experience, all appearances must be made of this background, whatever unnamable stuff that might be. And if all things are made of the same stuff, all things are, at their core, the same. No separation, no division, no self, no other. And when all boundaries dissolve all that remains is love.

How do we strip away the imagined attributes of our so-called self? ‘Strip away’ is just a manner of speech. We really don’t have to do anything. In the stillness of not-doing, our essential shared nature, ever-present awareness, is revealed. And with this revelation all of our imagined attributes fade into the background just as the darkness of night fades in the coming dawn.

To Beat A Dead Horse

We beat a dead horse over and over – wake up, Wake Up, WAKE UP! – and still the horse is dead.

As a spiritual seeker we beat our heads against the illusionary wall of separation over and over, hoping that some time in the future we will wake up, Wake Up, WAKE UP! But still we are dead to our true nature.

The separate self, the body-mind, the ego, seeks the happiness as proclaimed by sages, past and present, and goes to any means possible to find it. It seeks it through possessions, relationships, substances, thrills, or meditates, prays, chants mantras, surrenders to a guru . . . and is never satisfied. It might find momentary relief in some of these experiences, but all experiences come and go, which leaves the separate self in an endless and futile quest for relief. Relief, as it turns out, from itself.

The separate self cannot find the happiness it seeks because the separate self doesn’t exist. There is no ‘me’, as we have been taught to believe, to do the seeking in the first place.

The separate self is a body-mind made of flesh, sinew, and bones, housing thoughts, images, emotions, and sensations, perceiving the world through the five senses. All these attributes are continually changing, forever coming and going, and therefore can’t be considered real in the truest sense.

For something to be real shouldn’t it be ever-present and unchanging?

What in our experience is ever-present and unchanging?

The only thing ever-present and unchanging in our experience is awareness, that which knows experience but is itself not an experience.

Once this aware-presence at the core of our being has been identified, ask yourself, can anything exist outside of this awareness? Does anything in our experience enter our awareness from some other place? Does a cloud enter the sky from a location other than the sky? And, strictly speaking, awareness itself is not a place. As it is ever-present, it is not limited to one particular location in time or space. It is beyond, or prior to, time and space, and therefore infinite and eternal.

Where in the infinite and eternal is there room for two?

Awareness is all there is.

If awareness is all there is, everything must be made of awareness. There is no horse, no self, no other, no thoughts, sensations, or perceptions, no world, no galaxy, no universe. There is only awareness and its infinite manifestations.

So now, for the two hundredth time, let’s beat on one more dead horse: the idea of ever-present awareness. We have come to understand that awareness is all there is, that nothing comes from outside of awareness, that everything is made of awareness, and finally, as awareness is the source of all things, it wants for nothing.

Now let’s take our neti neti stick of discrimination and with one pure stroke beat the concept of awareness into oblivion . . .

. . . and vanish into the full emptiness of the centerless center of our shared being.

One Of Two Things

As someone dedicated to discovering your original nature, awakening or becoming enlightened, you’re either one of two things: a separate self seeking the everlasting peace and happiness of absolute consciousness, or absolute consciousness manifesting as a separate self, but only ever being itself.

If you look closely at your experience, you can only be the latter – absolute consciousness manifesting as a separate self, but only ever being itself.

So the first thing you can do is relax. Enjoy your life experience, your manifestation as a so-called individual body-mind with its endless parade of positive, negative, and neutral thoughts coming and going, waves of diverse emotions washing through you, the ever changing array of sensations coursing through your body, the variety of sense perceptions of the world experienced through your five senses.

Then ask yourself the question, is this separate self, this seeker, real? If it is, then we should proceed with our search using the various tools offered to the seeker, e.g., teachers, gurus, study, retreats, meditation, mantra, yoga, etc. If it is not, then we can abandon our search and live our lives in accord with our essential being, that is, absolute consciousness, whose very nature is one of peace, love, and happiness.

When we seriously investigate the elements of the separate self, that is, its thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions, we discover that they are all temporary occurrences, forever changing, and therefore can’t be considered real in the truest sense.

For something to be considered real it would have to be ever-present and unchanging, unmoved by any experience of the body, mind, and world. It would have to be beyond time and space, and therefore infinite and eternal.

So trying to prove that the separate self, our body-mind, is real is like trying to prove that we have captured wind in a bottle. The separate self, the seeker, can never find the infinite and eternal because it is already a manifestation of it. It’s like the wind looking for the sky.

For just a moment, shift your perspective from that of an individual self made up of temporary attributes seeking the infinite, to the unchanging infinite itself, the ever-present knowing within you, that seeks nothing as it is all things. You can do this, as you know intuitively that this ever-present knowing is at the core of your being, the source of your being, our being.

At first glance, it seems as though we have two choices, to identify as one of two things: the infinite and eternal Self manifesting as a human being, or the finite and time-bound separate self forever grasping after the truth. But, in fact, there is no choice – there is only the choiceless awareness of just one thing that is not even a thing.