The End Of Self-Inquiry

In the past, my most powerful toolset for understanding myself was meditation, in silence, carefully observing every thought, emotion, and state of consciousness.  Like a scientific instrument, my mind had to be cooled to nearly zero Kelvin, quiet, silent, without any noise, all so I could perceive the most subtle of conscious states without interfering with them.   I would just carefully watch and then inquire with questions like, “Who is perceiving these events which are unfolding?  Who is experiencing this emotion?  This feeling?  This bodily sensation? Why is this happening?”

When I performed self-inquiry, I didn’t just perceive events without carefully analyzing and trying to understand them.  When I would perceive an emotion, I would carefully watch my own consciousness for what triggers different states of being within the body and the mind.  For example, if I was feeling angry, I would ask, “Why is this anger happening?  When did it start?  What causes it?  What triggers it?  Does it happen every time such and such happens?  How long does it last?  What effects does this have on my behavior?  My emotional state?  Is it beneficial?  Is it harmful?”  I did similar inquiries into happiness, sadness, what activities I was enjoying, when I was enjoying them, what aspects of the activities I was enjoying and wasn’t enjoying, you get the idea.  I carefully watched and questioned everything, as much as I could.  I always benefited from such inquiries.

This was extremely powerful, up to a point, but even this had its limits.  As you get deep into such inquiries, you come to realize that your entire identity is a mental construct, a bundle of thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations which come and go, changing all of the time, not fundamental at all.  But what is it all changing relative to?  Memories?  It certainly seemed to rely on memory to an extent.  Each moment I experienced, when in silence, could be analyzed as a temporary manifestation within consciousness which came and later dissolved back into the void.  It wasn’t just thoughts and self-conceptions which were coming and going, it was pretty much everything.  The world, the people in it, emotional states, thoughts, pretty much all I’d ever known.  The same pattern was always taking place — a temporary manifestation was witnessed within a more fundamental awareness, and later all such events would eventually dissolve.  So you keep focusing your attention, looking, searching, inquiring, asking, “Ok, so everything is coming and going.  Who is having these experiences?  Maybe that is just an idea as well?”

With careful enough attention and inquiry, even the so-called witness dissolves as an idea, a mental construct.  The idea that there is a “you” and this “you” is making decisions and controlling this entire display of life is seen as an illusion.  Every aspect of this process is witnessed as a temporary manifestation which comes and goes.  There is no central point-like witness, nor is this witness “acting” with some imaginary will.  All events are happening spontaneously.

This is where language starts to fail me.  When speaking of things at a level this fundamental, the more proper phrasing might be, “There is a spontaneous witnessing of events.”  They aren’t witnessed by an entity, there is just a spontaneous witnessing.  For example, the idea that “I am thinking this thought”, itself is just an idea.  First there’s the manifestation of the thought, whatever it may be.  Then this thought is followed by another thought which claims ownership of it, claiming “this thought is mine”.  Oftentimes they both come simultaneously, from separate parallel mental processes, but I’m breaking it up for illustration purposes.  Both are just temporary manifestations.  If the thought “this thought is mine” is then believed (the belief being yet another type of mental thing), then you have self-identification.  Other people may have a thought which doesn’t jive with them, and then they say, “Why am ‘I’ thinking this?  This isn’t like ‘me’.”  This is when a person does not self-identify with the thought.  This is all illusory, just one process of the mind fighting with another, and even this fight process can be carefully watched and observed.  This entire dynamic is the self-identification process I often speak of.  That’s all it is, a sort of mental thought process, a process itself which comes and goes relative something more fundamental.  This “I” is an illusion, a false idea of ownership which doesn’t actually exist.  There’s just the spontaneous manifestation of the various thoughts within awareness, which later dissolve, and the self-identification-ideas are just hollow attachments without any substance.  Strangely, if in meditation the mind becomes aware of this false process, it cleans itself up on its own, and this is a primary method into calming the mind.

If you silence the mind and just pay attention, eventually you come to the “container” of consciousness, where all of the flows of thought, emotion, bodily perceptions, and the rest of it all takes place.  You feel everything coming and going, but this “container” remains, similar to events happening within space.  However, even it being a “container” is just an idea.  It’s not a container.  It’s formless, shapeless, without qualities.  Like I said, I’ve run out of concepts and ideas to explain it with.  Many different kinds of events happen within this conscious space, but the space itself remains unchanged.  Even all self-concepts are manifestations which come and go from this level.  You sort of lock into observing events relative to this unchanging space, and you “watch” events manifest into being, and later dissolve, but this space remains unaffected.

Now you say, ok, I want to know more!  The question at this point becomes, “What more is there to know?”  What even is knowing when you’re looking at things from such a fundamental state?  Any sort of “understanding” in terms of logic and thoughts are mental objects which manifest and dissolve within this fundamental space.  When you’re in such a state of silence, “you” watch “your” own attempts to understand this space manifest and dissolve.  You think, “Maybe this is what’s happening”, and you watch both that thought, and all the concepts and thoughts involved with it, manifest, display to this conscious awareness, and then later dissolve.  Then it’s like, “No, this is more fundamental than that”, but at the very same time you’re watching even that thought manifest and then dissolve.  You can’t even think about this “space” without creating ripples in it which themselves are observed!  Then you think, “Where are these thoughts coming from?”  Same thing.  You spontaneously “hear” yourself asking that thought, and conjectures as to what is happening manifest, display for a time in the mind, and then dissolve.  This “canvas”, this “container”, it somehow contains all this stuff, and can “display” these things within awareness, but yet it isn’t any individual thing being displayed, all at the same time.

When I was reading the talks of Nisargadatta Maharaj, he captured the problem quite elegantly when responding to a question.

“It is extremely difficult to get at the root of the conscious energy — the perfect adept in the art of assuming an infinite variety of forms. The consciousness to be apprehended and the power of concentration are one and the same. Being polymorphous by nature, it cannot be pinned down to any definite form or name or place.”

Where does that leave us?  This state isn’t something you can think about.  You can’t analyze it.  You try to focus in on something, but that mental focus itself creates ripples which are not what we’re trying to get at.   There’s no words to describe it.  All of these things are various kinds of objects which themselves are manifested and later dissolve within this fundamental awareness.   We’ve hit the root, the Source, the bedrock of experience.  There’s nothing beyond it.  Nothing more to know, nothing more to say.  There is just this container capable of “displaying” an infinite variety of forms, emotions, thoughts, and who knows what else.   It’s the end of questions.  The end of understanding.  From this level, to understand something is to be it.  We are all this Source.  That’s what all of this is — a big manifestation within this Source.  This mind of God if you will.

“Now I do not feel the necessity of meditation any more. For the very nature of meditation is such that it is spontaneous. In its process it gives rise to innumerable forms and names and qualities. How could all these ever be cognised or otherwise recorded? And what have I got to do with it all? Now I am convinced beyond doubt that this meditation of mine is born of God; and the world of things is the product of my meditation only. The cyclic process of origination, sustenance and destruction is the very core of its (of the world) being. Howsoever more I may try to know, the same process must repeat as often! My inquisitiveness has come to an end.”

Now to take things even deeper, even you meditating on all of this, trying to figure it out, all of that is happening spontaneously.  As far as I can tell, the search is over.  There’s no more questions to ask.  Nothing more to know, at least about my fundamental identity.  How can I be defined when any definition is just a limiting concept contained within the Absolute?  What idea or experience will fully capture this infinite totality?  There isn’t any.

Unaffected By Stories

The deeper I go down this road of meditation, the less affected I am by stories.  The more my peace and happiness comes from within, so to speak, and the more my contentment comes from the ‘I am’ presence, which never changes, the less I’m inclined to pursue or even worry about many of the things I see others caught up in.  There are many states of conscious which human life is filled with, but I find them all inferior to the peace and inner happiness of inner silence.

I never was all that into movies, even when I was young, but now I’m hardly interested in them at all.  Take the other day.  I loaded up Netflix and decided to watch the first Rocky movie again.  I remember seeing it as a kid and it brought back some childhood memories.  Many feel it’s the best of the series.  For those who haven’t seen it, Rocky is a “nobody”, working as a loan shark collector, spending his spare time in the gym training as a boxer.  By some auspicious circumstances, he gets a chance to fight Apollo Creed, the heavyweight champion of the world.  This is his big shot, his chance to prove to the world that he’s got what it takes, his chance to leave a life of poverty and become “something”.  He trains hard, goes the distance with the champ (he doesn’t get knocked out), and the movie ends with Rocky standing strong at the end of fifteen rounds, toe to toe with the champ, face beaten to a pulp, screaming, “I did it Adrian!”, and his wife Adrian running to his side yelling “I love you.”

As I watched the movie, all I wanted to do is sit with Rocky and ask him, are you really nobody, or is this just an idea you entertain in your mind?  And where did this idea come from?  Why do you entertain it?  Will becoming the champion really change anything, other than how you perceive yourself in your own mind?  He felt he needed to prove himself, but to who?  His wife Adrian didn’t care.  She would love him anyway.  The ordinary folks of Philadelphia, where Rocky is from, outside of wanting an entertaining fight to help them escape from their day to day lives, they’re not thinking about Rocky, at least not regularly.  When you spend time meditating, and become aware of why you’re doing what you’re doing, it all seems ridiculous.

Ramana Maharshi taught me that happiness and peace are our nature.  That’s what we are at our core if our mind is silent, but when we get caught up in these false self identities, that peace and happiness is masked over.  Rocky is self-identifying with being “nobody”, so now his peace is snapped away from him.  Standing toe to toe with the champ wasn’t what made Rocky happy at the end of the movie.  His real nature is peace.  When he finally got a chance to prove himself, to himself, all that happened was that he was temporarily relieved from the torment that his own mind was putting him through.   When his mind was satisfied with this false idea he had of himself, this idea that he’s tough, and could go the distance,  and had what it takes, then his mind finally subsided, and he felt his inner nature shine through again.  But was all that necessary?  He could feel that peace all the time if he just gave up the idea that he is a nobody.  Give up all these illusory self conceptions.  They’re not real.  You don’t have to fight the champ, beat yourself up, worry your wife that you’ll be permanently injured for the rest of you life, or anything like that.  You see how this works?  You believe that you’re nobody, and now you have to overcome this idea that you inflicted on yourself.

When I look around me, almost everyone I see is filled with these illusory self-conceptions.  It causes so much misery in the world, to themselves and to others.

Let’s keep talking about movies.  Consider romance movies.  You’ll see some man or woman trying to impress someone they’re interested in, all because they believe happiness comes from this romance and love.  So much energy is spent searching for something we all already have.  This entire dynamic is also all in the mind.  You believe that you’re lonely, you believe that you need companionship, that you need all these things from other people, etc.,  and you make it true.  But there is no such thing as loneliness.  It’s an imagined construct, and what misery you feel from it is self-inflicted.  You believe that this person or that will make you happy, and then you become upset when you’re not loved in return.  You struggle with feelings of inadequacy, thinking you’re not good enough, that you’re boring, unlovable, etc.

But assuming you find love, happiness does not come from the other person, it comes from within.  Silence the mind and you’ll be comfortable no matter who you’re around, and you won’t be pulled around by all these desires any longer.  You won’t need anyone’s presence to feel at home, or happy, etc., but if you’re with someone you love (you’ll begin to love everyone equally), go ahead, love them, it’ll be easier to do than ever before.  There will be so much new-found space within you, once that self-conception dies, you’ll be ready to give and love like never before.  What will leave you is burden of all the things you always thought you needed to be happy.  You don’t need someone to praise you everyday, telling you how wonderful you are.  You don’t need someone to tell you that you’re beautiful.  You don’t need someone to sit with you at night to keep you company, or someone to listen to your problems, or someone to spend your days with.  If someone is there, that’s fine, but none of it is required to be fulfilled and content with your life.

But people don’t believe that.  They get jealous and angry when someone leaves them, or disappoints them, or lets them down.  They feel they can’t enjoy the things they formerly enjoyed unless this other person is present.  First they believe that this or that is necessary for their happiness, and then when that something, whatever it may be, is taken away, that’s when they get resentful.  “I need you to be happy and you left me!”  “I can’t do this without you”, “I can’t enjoy this without you”.  Or worse, the other person dies, and then this anger and resentment is then passed onto whatever power they feel governs the universe.  They carry these imagined infractions along with them in memory, conjuring up misery in their own minds.  They drag it all with them, and for what?

However, the illusions of the mind can take you in the other direction as well, feeling others are stealing your joy and must cease to exist in order for you to happy.  They’re ruining everything.  If only they weren’t here!  Enter the world of special cliques, pride, and snobbish behavior.  Nobody else is good enough for this imagined “you”.  Or maybe you’re religious or spiritual and view these others as “impure”, “sinners”, something to be avoided.  Or you go on the dating scene and nobody makes the cut, they’re all a bore, nobody is worthy of your presence!  You’re not happy in any job or situation.  You’re better than the job you’re in, they’re lucky you tolerate them!  The mind now has to spend a great amount of energy to find ways to avoid those unworthy of your presence.  That’s when you’ve lost touch with your true nature within.  Only pain can bring you home.

Ultimately memory is the source of fear and desire.  A person remembers something painful or pleasurable, and then they self-identify with a thought stream and project these memories out into the future.  The original source of joy came unasked for, unplanned, a gift from the universe.  You were just living life, exploring, and came across something or someone, and you had a good time.  But then people make a mistake.  They come to believe this or that is the source of their joy, but it’s not.  These beliefs soon become a prison of their own making. They believe this person, this situation, this type of activity is necessary for their happiness, etc.  Life just isn’t worth experiencing if these things aren’t present.  For example, they believe this career path is required to experience happiness at work, this or that possession must be present in order for them to feel at home, this friend must be with them in order to enjoy this or that activity, etc.  Now life becomes harder and harder because the mind has to juggle all these often conflicting desires, needs, and wants.  This inner strife becomes draining and painful.  The mind becomes very busy, filled with chaotic thoughts, consumed with protecting all of these imagined fountains of joy, trying to keep things as they were and have been, or attempting to create things they imagine will make them happy.  Also, as each one of these fountains dries up or is destroyed, the mind is filled with pain and sorrow.  I NEED this, I NEED that, I’ll do ANYTHING to feel happy, loved, and content!  But everything in this world comes and goes, mainly because the universe is ready to share something new with you.  But instead of letting the flow continue, you get in your own way.  The universe gave you joys unasked for and unplanned initially, why can it not do so again?  Have faith.

I suppose I could elaborate a little on these mental prisons.  Say you believe you need a big, beautiful home in order to enjoy life.  This is how mental prisons are constructed.  Consider what happens when you can no longer afford the beautiful home?  Or what if you’re stuck doing work you hate in order to afford the big home?  Or what if your partner leaves you and you cannot afford the home on your own?  Or maybe you married someone you didn’t love because they had money and could provide these things you felt you needed to be happy?  Now you’re doubting whether you made the right decision.  You’ve created conflicts within yourself and your mind spends all this effort and energy juggling and prioritizing these supposed needs and desires.  You hate your partner for leaving you because they stole your home, the source of your joy, but you don’t want to be a hateful person because this doesn’t align with your value system.  So now these mental conflicts are building up.  You’ve told yourself you have these imagined dreams, but you’re not doing anything toward making them reality, and those very thoughts make you  hate your current job (which is stealing your time), but you want to be positive and give others joy (isn’t that also your dream?), but you don’t feel you’re doing that so you’re disappointed with yourself.  These illusions just go on and on on and on.  Then you think, oh, why am I stuck working in a job I hate in order to have the things I need to be happy!  Woe is me!  Life is so unfair!  If only I were rich, like the celebrities and superstars!   You then create imagined compromises, the supposed work/life balance.  You’re jealous over what others have.  Angry about how this or that turned out.  You regret decisions that you’ve made, wondering if some other path could’ve brought certain advantages, joys, and other forms of abundance into your life.  None of it is real.  Inner silence will give you what you’re after, and you can live a lot more simply.

This video from Mooji really resonates with me.  He reflects on all of these sorts of things, these elements of our stories, and he tells us, “It’s nothing, nothing, nothing.” It’s the same conclusion I’ve came to.  He continues to pass on the teachings of Ramana Maharshi.  I believe he helps a lot of people.

Everywhere I look, people are searching for some form of acknowledgment from others, seeking accomplishments, or hoping someone will notice them, accept them, praise them, think they’re wonderful, find them interesting, let them be the source of all joy.  This sort of needy behavior creates so much misery in the world.  It’s all rooted in confusions of the mind.  You don’t need any of it.  But you hear people all the time, complaining, how come “I” didn’t get the little plaque on the wall, saying I’m the most valuable employee!  How come “I” am not desired, while all these other inferior people get the things that I want!  How come “I” wasn’t addressed with the proper honorifics?!  Don’t you know how hard I worked to get where I am?  Praise me, respect me, honor me!  Me, me, me!  I hear all this and think, “It’s nothing, nothing, nothing.”

This is why I don’t listen to music much anymore.  Every song is filled with this silliness.  I was in the gym the other day and heard this song, “Look mom, I made it!”  Now my peers acknowledge me (not much different from Rocky).  Look at me, I have all the girls, all the money, I’m successful!  Woohoo, look at me!  What, you’re not looking?  WHY AREN’T YOU LOOKING AND ADMIRING ME!  Then you come to the next song, so and so left me, she’ll regret it!  Half of the song is filled with subtle forms of revenge.  Then the next song, oh she loves me, how happy I am now that she’s with me.  Once again, nothing, nothing, nothing.  I just hope they one day realize they’re creating prisons for themselves, locking away their own happiness, happiness which is with them right here, right now.

I was trying to communicate all of this to a person who left a comment on my blog the other day.  If you meditate and give up all of these illusory self-conceptions, these projections, etc.,  realizing that that they aren’t necessary for happiness, all of the mental noise associated with it goes away.  Your life becomes more simplistic on its own.  Your mind becomes quiet on its own, simply by realizing this.  You just have to become aware that happiness isn’t in any of these things.  You just have to see this inner nature within, feel it, experience it.  Feel the unconditional joy, the unconditional peace.  Know it, firsthand.  That’s all that’s needed, the rest happens on its own.  The anger, the regrets, the constant plotting and scheming to make affairs how you believe they should be, it all just goes away.  This takes with it 95% of the suffering people go through in this life.  It took away practically all suffering I knew of.  Almost all suffering is emotional in nature.  Most of us have plenty to eat, we have a roof over our heads, and we’re able to get by.  The rest of our struggles are imagined, and there’s no end to those.  Seek silence.  In that new found silence, you’ll find a simple joy that’s unconditional.  You’ll see things you never used to see before, you’ll be open to the new things life wants to give you, instead of being caught up in what was before.

This same person asked if I have any motivation to do much of anything anymore.  Do I just sit, idle, doing nothing?  Would I ever exert effort to achieve something whenever I have this unconditional peace within?  Mooji answers this question in the following video.

In my case, I continue to pursue physics, but I spend my time pursuing the physics topics I enjoy for their own sake.  I research the things that truly interest me.  I do not seek awards, recognition, or other ego traps.  There was a career path others were trying to push me down, wanting me to crank out papers that meant nothing to me, doing “respectable” research, and all of that sort of thing, but I just hopped off the train because there was no point to it.  There was a purification within me.  There’s a more authentic expression within, done without aspiring, without chasing, without needing a particular result, finding, or way things should be.  I also don’t consider myself a physicist.  It’s like Mooji says, if a king spends an afternoon in the garden, does that make him a gardener?  No.  In the same way, I’m not a physicist.  I’m not a scientist.  I’m beyond labels.  I’d also be fine doing any other kind of work.  Just the other day I helped a friend frame his house.  I found it really interesting, then I was reading up on carpentry and construction, and watching Youtube videos on home renovation.  But wait, I’m a physicist, I’m not supposed to do work like that.  Who says?  A newfound joy came unasked, unplanned, so I go down that road and explore it.  I’m free of stories.

Reflections on Self Awareness

Many years ago, I would spend a lot of time reflecting on virtual reality.  The idea that you could put on a special helmet and become somebody else really intrigued me.  You could be transported into an entirely new world, in a brand new body.  You could become a secret agent, a medieval knight, an angelic being in a fantasy world, whatever you want.

But there was one thing that puzzled me.  Could you truly become the character you wished to be?  For instance, could you make yourself love things you don’t love?  Could you hate things you don’t hate?  Could you make yourself believe things you don’t believe?  Could you change your personality, thought patterns, and other fundamental aspects of who you are?

The virtual reality helmet may give you a new body and transport you into another world, but it wouldn’t replace your mind, or your thoughts, your likes, your dislikes, and other preferences.

For instance, say you wanted to experience a virtual reality novel featuring the life of a medieval nun. If you’re not spiritual or religious, it will be difficult to recreate the experience.  You may put on the helmet and watch things unfold from the nun’s eyes, see her daily life, and feel her bodily sensations, but could you experience life as she experienced it, fully, totally?  You may not believe in Jesus, but to this medieval nun, that’s all she cares about.  Her entire emotional life is tied into her religious beliefs.  Could you experience that, considering you’re not a religious person and see it all as superstitious?  Could you fear the wrath of God?  Could you feel the extreme guilt of insignificant sins?  Could you feel a longing to be with a being you don’t even believe exists?

Or what if you wanted to experience the life of a mercenary swordsman in ancient times?  Could you find joy in killing your enemies?  In pillaging villages?  Raping innocent women?  Slaughtering children?   You may be watching those events unfold from within the virtual reality helmet, but you’d likely experience disgust, or at least I would.  That’s not what the character experiences.  The character revels in all the blood, gore, and violence, and feels bliss at the idea of exerting his physical strength to dominate the world around him.  Your emotional experience wouldn’t line up with what it was really like to be that person.

So is it not possible to experience the life of another person without actually being that person?  As I got deeper and deeper into meditation, I realized that this is not how things work.  First off, there are no fundamental characteristics which describe who I am.  A desire doesn’t make me who  I am, neither does a particular way of thinking, or a preference for one thing over another.  Actions and decisions are not me either, and the same goes for emotional reactions to various events in life.  These things are not fundamental, they’re experienced within awareness just like anything else.  Secondly, there are no people.  None of us are the experience that we’re having, on any level.  For instance, this life I’m living now as “Jason” is very similar to the sort of virtual reality experience we’re describing.  He is just a character that I’m aware of.  I’m not Jason’s thoughts, what Jason likes, what he dislikes, any of his preferences toward anything, his body, his decisions, his actions, or anything else.  I am the witness which is aware of all these things.  He’s a character that’s loaded up into the VR experience currently “displaying” in consciousness.

This awareness can experience any character, any environment, in any period of time, living within any body (or no body at all), experiencing any thought, any like, any dislike, and all the rest of it.  I realized that THIS is what I am.  But what is “this” exactly?  It cannot be captured in words.  If I were to try, I’d say that “I am”.  I am conscious awareness, a sort of blank canvas that can experience anything and everything, similar to how a computer screen can display any image.  So I can experience the nun exactly as she is, just as I can experience the mercenary soldier in his totality, and  at the same time always remain who I am and have always been.

You may say, “But you’re Jason!”  I disagree.  I can meditate and directly perceive that this is not true.  To say that I’m Jason is like saying the current image on a computer screen is the computer screen.  But maybe speaking in terms of visual images is confusing you.  Imagine a screen that has thoughts “on” it, has emotions “on” it, has desires “on” it, has space and time “on” it, has bodily sensations “on” it, etc.  It “displays” the entirety of everything you’re aware of.  THAT “space” of seemingly infinite possibilities is what I am, yet I’m not any particular image on the screen.  I am the thing being display, yet not at the same time.  It doesn’t capture the entirety of what I am, what’s possible for me, or the true essence of my being.

The “real” me?  I have no story.  I was never born.  I will never die.  I have no qualities.  No properties.  No conditions.  I don’t come from anywhere.  I won’t ever go anywhere.  There’s nothing I have to do.  I don’t want anything.  I lack nothing.  I have everything.  I am everything.  To be more precise, there aren’t even separate things.  That’s all an illusory idea, something that’s false.  Things, separation, duality, space, time, those are a certain type of experience I can have.  Those are all possible “projections” onto this awareness I’ve been talking about.  A certain type of experience, that’s all.

Anything that changes is not me.  Anything that comes and goes is not me.  What I am never changes, is ever-present, and will always be present.  In fact, you can’t even talk about “me” in terms of time.  It’s not something that persists through time, it’s beyond time.  And this isn’t anything special to me.  It’s you as well.  There is no me, no you, not even an “us”.  Just “I am”.

I realized this while reflecting on a book I read which was filled with near death experience accounts.  When a fifty year old man died, his grandparents and other dead relatives came to greet him on some plane beyond this world.  Then I got to thinking, if I’m not my body, nor am I my thoughts, then these “dead” people aren’t either.  If I were to die, and say my grandmother came to me, who would I be speaking to?  She wasn’t that body, nor was she any sort of like, dislike, or thought pattern, or anything of the sort.  The real her didn’t have a story, just like I don’t have a story.  So what would I be talking to?  How is this person supposed to greet me?  In what way?  What property or characteristic uniquely identifies her, as opposed to me?  There are none.  She’s a character within awareness, just as Jason is.

The second you no longer identify with your body, your thoughts, your likes, your dislikes, your actions, etc.  you see through the entire illusion.  All of it.  Spirituality.  Religion.  Life.  Death.  You’re left in this silent peace and all is fine.

The Fundamental State

I’ve been talking a lot about Ramana Maharshi’s self-inquiry lately.   I’d like to walk you through a series of questions, trying to help direct you to the ‘I am’ state, the fundamental state, self-realization, whatever you wish to call it.  To do so, I have to ask you to leave everything for now.  This requires no tools or special techniques.  You do not have to close your eyes, or do breathing exercises, or listen to special meditative music, or anything like that.  What we will be going for is not an idea, so this is not a state of thought.  This state reveals itself when there is peace and detachment.

First, empty yourself of everything, even the concept of emptiness.  Empty yourself of every idea, every perception, every experience, every concept, every emotion, every imagination, all that you’ve ever learned or thought, and leave it all behind.  Do not come into this with any belief systems because those will only hinder you from finding this.  There’s no religion here.  No science.  No set way that things work.  Keep emptying yourself, and emptying yourself, until you finally come to something which you cannot empty yourself of.  Pure awareness.  The spaceless space.  The I am.  This is something that is immovable, ever-present, incapable of being touched.  I’m asking you to remain in this place while I ask you a series of questions about it.  Each of these questions are a form of self-inquiry, and I will answer each in turn.

Now that you’ve emptied yourself, now that you’re perceiving that which remains, is it an object?  Can it be photographed or captured in some way?  

No.  This state is aware of objects.  It is that which witnesses the objects.  It is also both the object, and not the object, at the same time.  It cannot be captured or represented by anything other than itself.  No symbols, no mathematics, no image.  It simply is, and if you self-inquire, and keep asking yourself, “Who am I?”  this state is there, and has always been there.

Was it created?

No.  It exists outside of time.  Time flows on it, like pictures change on a computer screen.  This screen, this spaceless space is unchanging.  It’s always been there and always will.

Does it belong to some people and not to others? Does it belong to anybody at all?

Every idea, concept, imagination, or perception of anything “other” can be perceived from this state.  One may have a concept of self, and relative to this self-concept ideas about “others” may be perceived.  For example, one may identify with their body, and then ideas about others and the external world arises.  But these are things perceived on the unchanging spaceless canvas of awareness.  This only happens if we self-identify with a particular experience or idea; only then others will arise relative to this.  But assuming we have such a self-concept, this state we’re discussing now belongs to all and is in all.  It’s in you and it’s also in all the others.  It’s not exclusive to anyone or anything.  Everything that does arise arises within it and on it, including others and every idea about anything other than self.  But when you’re in this spaceless state, there are no others, so this question makes no sense.

Can it become sick? Or depressed? 

No.  It is unchanging.  Certain pictures being projected onto the spaceless canvas of this awareness may be accompanied by an emotion of depression, or there may be a “movie” playing of a body experiencing sickness, but if one perceives this canvas, they can dissociate from the movie and experience inner peace.  Without any movie playing on the spaceless canvas of awareness, the background experience is unchanging and unalterable peace.  Sickness and depression are temporary illusions being played on this screen of awareness.  If this awareness realizes that thoughts and emotions are experiences which flow through its spaceless space, and one does not attach or self-identify with these experiences flowing through it, then one silences the mind and depression no longer exists, though physical pain of the body is still experienced.

Did it come from somewhere?  Can it leave?

Space, along with any concepts of “elsewhere” arise on this spaceless canvas of awareness.  It cannot go anywhere.  It is prior to space and time.  Space and time are things experienced on this unchanging screen.

Can it belong to any religion or any institution?

All religions and institutions are ideas, concepts, imaginations, and perceptions which are experienced from this state of awareness.  This is beyond religion.  Any experience or idea of God or gods happens on this screen of awareness.  This state is beyond an external God and all ideas of your-self.  This is beyond faith, or a need for faith.  This is not something that one has to believe in.  It is immediately experienced and is beyond doubt.  In that sense it’s more real than anything experienced.

Does it have any expectations?

Expectation is a belief that something in particular will happen.  All beliefs are experienced on this canvas, this spaceless space.  They float in and out of this space and one can self-identify with them, or not.  But this state is beyond any belief or belief system.

Does it judge anyone?  Does it accept or reject anything or anyone?

All value systems are objects experienced on the spaceless space of awareness.  If one self-identifies with a particular value system, then a set of accompanying ideas and other actions flow out of it.   This is the source of judgement, such as opinions, moral evaluations, ideas of who deserves what and for what reasons, and other things like this.  However, the spaceless canvas of awareness is beyond value systems, though it allows one to self-identify and experience the consequences of any particular value system.  Accepting and rejecting result from self-identifying with a value system.  Looking at it all from “above”, from the fundamental state of awareness, it is possible to accept or reject anything.  It’s your choice.  The keyword is “your”.  This “your” comes from the self-identification with the value system.  You believed and consented to the value system, and from that acceptance flowed an experience of it.  The spaceless space of awareness does not judge anyone or anything.

Can it be manipulated?

The spaceless space, the divine screen, cannot ever be manipulated.  It is unchanging.  What can be manipulated is what displays on the screen of conscious awareness.  This is done through self-identification.  Once one self-identifies with something being displayed, they enter the world of consenting, believing, and pursing certain experiences as opposed to others.  When you believe that some experience is “you”, and some other experience is “other”, you now have the task of fully fleshing out this identify.  You enter the project of adding to this false identity, or taking away from it.  You’re always dissatisfied with this limitation and the thought of, “Is this all there is?” periodically enters your mind.  That is the true Self calling you back “home” beyond limitation, beyond boundaries.  One is always everything being seen on the screen of awareness; manipulation is only of the veil of ignorance of oneself.  The true Self cannot change, which is what we all are.  What changes is the dream world we project by veiling ourselves in temporary ignorance.

How old is it?  Can it end?

It is beyond time.  Time manifests on this spaceless space of awareness.  All objects manifest within awareness, and if there is some continuity and order to what’s manifesting, you could meaningfully speak of time.  Death is an abrupt change in what’s being displayed on the spaceless screen of awareness due to a removal of a limitation or set of limitations you formerly agreed to experience, or temporarily self-identified with.  However, the screen of awareness is eternal and there is no death or end to it.  The only thing that can die are illusions.  And speaking of the illusions, they never “die” either, and are always available as eternal possibilities which you can experience at any time.

Does it know inside or outside?

If one self-identifies with a particular experience, such as “I am this body”, then ideas of inside and outside come out of that.  The experience of the body, along with any ideas of inside, outside, or anything else, happen on the spaceless canvas of awareness.   One can be aware of an inside and outside, if one wants to.  Or there can be experiences flowing on the screen where there is no self-concept at all.  This awareness can have a limited, veiled experience without any ego.  For example, one could be a bodiless, spherical viewpoint flying over a beautiful landscape, aware of the surroundings, but not thinking anything, or exclusively “being” anything that is experienced.  Sort of like enjoying a beautiful screensaver or something.  In fact, if one chooses, this human life can become this, if one no longer identifies with the body, emotions, or thoughts.  If one changes their perspective awareness, they’ll watch this life unfold on its own.  Choices will happen on their own, like everything went on auto-pilot.  All stress goes away.  Life is left to whatever forces set it all into motion.

How far away from you is it? Can you reach it?

Space arises on this canvas of awareness, but the awareness itself has no distance from you.  You are it and it is you.  How would you reach for it?  You’d have to create a body for yourself, self-identify with it, and then create another object within your awareness, self-identify with it as well, and then reach for it with this body.  For example, you could see a tunnel of light, enter it, and then experience some sort of merging, followed by a positive emotional experience and a voice saying, “Now we are one!”  That’s a nice experience, but it’s all an illusory movie happening within awareness.  You’re never apart from the spaceless space.  You don’t have to be “saved” from anything other than your-self (the amalgamation of illusions you’ve identified with).  Intense spiritual practices, prayer, and devotion may help you quell your own mind, and remove wrong self-identifications, waking you up from the dream you’ve gotten yourself into, but it doesn’t change who and what you are fundamentally.

If it has no form, if it is not an object, how are you perceiving it?

The real mystery to all of this is that this state isn’t an object, nor is it an idea, nor is it an emotion, yet through self-inquiry your conscious attention will eventually arrive at it.  This true Self, which you are, is Itself Self-Aware.  It can perceive Itself.  It knows Itself and has always known Itself.  Then when you direct your attention toward it, you’ll think, “What is this and where have you been this whole time?”  And it’s like, “I am”.  That’s when streams of tears roll down your face.  The thought then arises, “Oh my.  I’ve found God within myself!”  Then you enquire further and realize, oh wait, this is me, the real me.  I’ve always been this, and always will be this, and I never was any of the things I thought I was!”  More tears roll down your face followed by total peace.  The false illusory self dissolves, and you become this spaceless canvas of awareness.  You are now at one with everything, atonement, which means “at-one-ment”, the moment where all becomes one.  Sin is the belief that you were other than what you are, believing in “other” when all is one.  One must atone, or “at-one” for one’s sins.

What gave you the power to know that it is uncreated?

It’s directly perceived.  Directly known.  To even assume it was ever created makes no sense.  Time is flowing on the spaceless space of this awareness.

So now you’ve discovered this “Self”.  Of what value is such a discovery? And to whom?

Value systems are thoughts which one self-identifies with.  What this will mean to you depends on that value system.  This is beyond any conception of value, which would simply be an experience happening on this spaceless canvas of awareness.  The same goes to whoever one believes they are.   It can mean the world, it can mean nothing, it can be something one thinks about all the time, or something one never cares to think about at all.  To me, it meant everything.  It was all I ever wanted to know, and now that I know it, nothing else seems to matter, so much so that I dissolved completely within it and wanted nothing more to do with illusions of being ‘Jason’.  For the first time, I’m satisfied with something that I’ve found.  Everything I’ve searched for before, I found it all lacking,  but this is exactly what I was after.  How many other things in this world can you say that about?  I never want to let it go.  It’s the single most important event of my life, and I’d never give it up for anything or anyone.  I’d sell all I have for this realization.  Give up all worldly pleasures.  But one has to receive to call from within, I suppose.  If that’s not there, this will all just sound bizarre, possibly pointless.  This realization will not give you special powers or unique insights into anything.  There’s no big cash prize waiting for you.  It’s something one has to search for for its own sake, and looking back over my life since my late teens, it’s all I’ve ever searched for or cared about.  Now all I want to do is just remain in this state of awareness.

There Is A Time

It’s rare for a song to move me emotionally, but ‘There Is A Time’ by the Dillards deeply moves me.  It’s a beautiful song.

There is a time for love and laughter
The days will pass like summer storms
The winter wind will follow after
But there is love and love is warm
There is a time for us to wander
When time is young and so are we
The woods are greener over yonder
The path is new the world is free
There is a time when leaves are fallin’
The woods are gray the paths are old
The snow will come when geese are callin’
You need a fire against the cold
So do your roaming in the springtime
And you’ll find your love in the summer sun
The frost will come and bring the harvest
And you can sleep when day is done
When you’re young, there always seems to be greener forests elsewhere, so you’re searching for that experience which will define and fulfill you.  You search for the ideal partner, seek fulfillment through a career, dream of traveling to exotic locations, and look for your place in this world.  That’s the time for love and laughter, but that will all pass like summer storms.  As you get older, those paths that were once exciting when you were young are now well worn; things are colder.  Those green woods are now turning brown and the leaves are falling.  You can’t wander forever.  You do that in the springtime, but there comes a time to finally end the search, regardless of whether you’ve found what you were after or not.  Winter is setting in and you’ll have to find your inner fire.  You must take what the world has given you and use it to express a deep love that comes from within, no longer relying on outer experience to define and control your happiness.   That’s the natural progression. At first you seek outward and explore, and you do that for a season, but then it’s time to return inward.  That’s the cycle of growth.