My last post concluded with the realization that to experience total freedom, peace, and unconditional happiness, the sense of being a separate personal entity has to disappear. While whole-hearted navigation gradually erases this distinction through alignment, there is a complementary practice, essentially a shortcut, that can greatly facilitate this process.
All spiritual practices aim at increasing the awareness of our spiritual nature. Our spiritual nature is our non-material nature, our soul or consciousness. Non-material or non-phenomenal pertains to that, which is not a thing and which is therefore formless and timeless. Our spiritual nature is our formless and timeless nature.
Most of us identify with our body. And if we believe that there is indeed a formless and timeless quality to us, we are unable to realize it, because our mind can only render what is defined by space and time. Therefore, this formless and timeless nature cannot be found with the help of the personal mind. And in order to truly realize and BE it, it appears that our sense of identity would have to disassociate from the body to dissolve in this formless nature that we cannot find...
As it happens, both of these seemingly formidable obstacles can be overcome by simply focusing our attention on the experience of identity itself: "What exactly do we refer to when we say ‘I’?"
"What does the label ‘I’ point to if we stay exclusively in the realm of our actual experience?" This form of enquiry is the core practice of Wisdom Yoga (Jnana Yoga) and the essence of Non-duality Teachings in Hinduism (Advaita Vedanta).
It is quite straightforward. As we examine what we truly experience as we follow the sense of ‘I’ inward, we naturally land on the body as the first likely candidate. There are immediate problems, however. First, we call it ‘my body’, which suggests that we are not the body itself. Secondly, if we were the body, we should be able to substitute the word ‘I’ with the words ‘this body’ in thought and speech. "‘This body’ wants to know its identity; ‘this body’ is wondering; ‘this body’ is confused, etc. etc." Clearly no fit. As we see, in most cases this does not make any sense at all. We are also aware of the body in its entirety, which requires a subject/object relationship and puts us somehow outside of it. It follows that we cannot be the body, not essentially at least.
The only elements pertaining to the sense of ‘I’ that we can actually perceive and experience are our body, our thoughts, and our emotions. Since we are not the body, we would have to find our identity in our thoughts and emotions, a field of experience we usually call the mind. The mind, however, is not an entity to begin with. It is an ever changing stream of thoughts and feelings, concepts, images, ideas, and memories. Sometimes it doesn’t even exist, as in deep sleep, or if we are immersed in an absorbing activity. To place our identity in the mind would mean that we are made of thoughts and feelings that appear and disappear and are constantly changing. Additionally, as with the body, we can be aware of all aspects of the mind, and we call it ‘my mind’. Again, it follows clearly that we cannot be the mind either.
What we are looking for is the one that is looking out from behind the eyes, the owner of the emotions, the thinker of thoughts, the do-er of actions, the one in control, the person, the ego, the psychological entity at our core. But if we look with sustained focus, frame by frame, so to speak, all we find is a construct of thoughts, concepts, and memories, together forming the idea of a separate self.
And so, quite magically, simply by looking for itself, the navigator disappears indeed.
To be continued.