I AM • WE ARE
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”
Who are you? Are you your name? Are you the color of your hair or the clothes you wear? Are you the voice in your head when it tells you you are not enough, when it tells you you are amazing? Are these things who you are?Then if you marry and change your name is that now you? Did you change who you were? If you grow out of your clothes and change your style and your hair grows grey or you dye it purple are you a different person then? What if none of those things were you. What if I told you these things, your name, your hair, your body, your thoughts, your sense of self were not you. What if you could understand them as various lampshades covering a lightbulb, and the light was you. That these lampshades we call ourselves are not who we really are at our true essence; they influence us, mask us, change us, mold our actions and thoughts.
What we are talking about is our soul, spirit, true self, atman, purusha and it is the pure white of the color spectrum. The beginning essence of us to which all the colors of the rainbow are added to color what we look like, sound like, feel like and think like.
Easy right? No, not at all. How do we reach the innermost core of who we are? How do we see past the many layers of color, or lampshades covering the bulb? We cannot simply intellectualize ourselves there, though this is classically the way one tries to evolve by understanding. But understanding alone is not enough to reach our true self. Though one may truly understand this concept, the reality is we all probably need to work through some very difficult personal patterns of thought that create specific behaviors and decision making. These are called samskara.
I see these thought patterns or samskara as the tornado surrounding the eye of the storm. The eye is calm and clear, unmoved, undisturbed. Imagine you are the eye of the storm, that the you that is infinite, in perfect stillness, and the thought patterns are the tornado that is on all sides. Life is the tornado around you, mostly unknown, chaotic and moving at such great speed, understanding seems impossible. This is why the human experience holds so much suffering and beauty, for every thing light there is dark, for everything beautiful there is also an ugly side making nothing that is light without dark. These are not new discoveries.
At the center of this tornado is where residing feels like home, the home of the true self. Getting there is like walking through the tornado with the utmost in focus.
Meditation is said to be the way to the self, and this is true but to meditate is not something everybody is ready to do. I know you’re thinking you have meditated for 3 minutes, or even 3 hours but true mediation that leads to the knowing of the self requires repetition, discipline, physical stamina, an open mind and a mastery of the breath. How many of you dropped off the list of “I meditate” now?
Let’s see if I lose a few more of you now; what does it mean to have an open mind? It means loosing oneself from the grips of samskaras, thought patterns. So I believe you if you tell me that you can sit for hours, that you can control the pace of your breath, that you do this daily. Here is what I don’t believe. I don’t believe that you have examined the way that you think about things and why that is. I don’t believe you have broken down thought processes in your psyche and changed or broken these patterns to allow for your true unsheathed self to shine through your various psychological reference points that tether your thinking to beliefs that are not yours. This is the discipline that is most difficult. The body trained, the first lampshade lifted. The breath mastered, the second lampshade lifted. The emotions and thought processes, so here is where we become stuck. Intellectual thought and study can begin to unravel some of this. But more is needed.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”.
Proust was right in this very simple but accurate statement I use as mantra. And the way in which to do this over an over again is to pull oneself to the present moment. The present moment is the eye of the storm. When the mind wanders creating connections that are interpreted in the present moment into feelings or actions, then the mind isn't actually present. If while you are arguing with a friend your mind takes you to a filing cabinet that pulls several files out on self worth and emotionally runs through each time you have felt less then. You are not giving full presence to the argument in the moment without it being affected by all of your past experiences. Equally you are probably imagining how you will not be treated this way in the future either and you bring that back to your thoughts and feelings about the present argument. Then your brain pulls more files from the books you’ve read, your political and social views, what your family has said about arguments like this, and maybe for good measure you are also recalling previous arguments with the same friend. All of this is happening in your head, probably in their head too and what is happening is that neither of you are in presence. Instead you are both in the tornado of thought.
Our beliefs and systems of thought are the slipperiest part of how we identify the self, they are like trying to cut though oily residue with nothing but water.
So let’s try that argument again. What if in the moment you begin to have discord each of you takes a breath, or two or three. What if you notice your surroundings, your bodies, your eyes. What happens then? The tornado of thought also slows. What if then you became so present to that moment that you could actually feel the suffering of your friend and before your brain went into the hyper-driven card catalog search of defense mechanisms you held compassion for their suffering? And what if they were doing the same exact thing? Don’t get me wrong, this is no easy feat. But it is the ultimate goal to being in harmony with ones true nature, ones true self and it has to be practiced with the utmost awareness, discernment, and discipline. As we walk into awareness, we can recognize that we are all in different places without it triggering a reactive defensive response. Harmony like this is the utopia of consciousness. But we can agree that it is one that it is well worth our disciplined effort, right?
So how? Where is our guidebook to presence? Without giving extensive commentary to enlightened philosophers, bodhisattvas, yogis, prophets, theological texts, and the like, the truth of it is, this 21st century would not be where it is, talking about PRESENCE without them. So as not to intellectualize this very visceral moment, just start with NOTICING. To notice you must stop thinking, to stop thinking you must notice first that you are in your head of thoughts. So slow it all down to right now, this breath, this inhale, this exhale. Close your eyes, see the thoughts in your head as images from a movie and to each thought ask if it is you, if it came from you, if it serves the you that is infinite, the you that is one with all. Watch this thought leave and once again turn your focus back to your breath, inhale, exhale. Make a constant practice of this. It is not easy, it is a discipline and you will lose it and have to find it again all the time. But this is the answer. There are an infinite number of tools to use in your toolbox to the self, ones that tweak and wrench and beguile you into presence over and over again and not all of these tools are right for everyone to work out the path, but everyone is going in the same direction so find the tools that work and use them.
Repetition, words, breath, movement, song, energy healing, mantra, poetry, dance, yoga, meditation, drawing, painting, making, running, the tools are limitless, use what works to shake or still your mind to open. Create the new eyes that can transform the same landscape you have in front of you and you will see more and more glimpses of your true self, the infinite you.
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