Are You a Person?

Are you really a person? With a continuous life, with a history, with a future? With problems, worries, fears? Joy, love, satisfaction? Accomplishments, opinions, righteousness? Is that you?

Most people think of themselves this way, and that's fine. But if you are reading this blog, there is a good chance this presents a problem for you in some way. There is something that doesn't feel right about the "separate" aspect of being a supposed person, and you've been inquiring into this issue for some time.

The inquiry leads to freedom, ultimately, so don't give up. And the freedom is from the idea of yourself as a person. You experience the freedom of being what you are, which is non-separate from the one undivided awareness, which is all there is. There is a happy ending to this story — always remember that. It's already here now, actually.

Can you ever really experience yourself as non-separate? Well, by definition, no, you can't. But what you can experience is a freedom from the thought-prison of continuity, which leads you on a moment-to-moment basis to keep creating the idea of a person in your mind. It really is possible to stop creating that idea of a person in your mind. Then who will you be? You will be what you already are, which is non-separate, non-dual, just this awareness here, with perhaps the current thought passing through. Nothing more.

The bondage and suffering comes from taking a current arising thought and attaching to it a habitual chain of other thoughts, which your mind is conditioned to follow. No arising thought, by itself, is ever a problem. Look for a thought now, and see if its arising in awareness creates any problem. It doesn't matter what the content of the thought is — you will notice it there, not disturbing anything, until you attach the rest of the "plot" to it. This is the habitual chain, and it is what I mean by "continuity."

Look into continuity and see if it is actually real. Is there any connection between this moment and the next? Really? Do you have any proof of that? Do you know for a fact that whatever is worrying you now even exists in the next moment? The beauty of reality is that it is completely unhinged from time. It is independent of causality. Your mind is free to drop whatever thought comes now, because any continuity or causality that you are attaching to it is just a habit of conditioning, not reality.

Bring up a thought right now that seems to always be troubling you — a worry, a doubt, it can even be a physical pain. And then do a little reality check on it. Do you notice that even though you say "this is on my mind all the time," it really isn't? Notice how often your mind will flit away to something else, and then where did that constant worry go? It wasn't there for a moment. The things we say are constant — they aren't really constant. Nothing is. It may be that a very small percentage of your time is occupied with that thought, and yet the thought arises, "It's on my mind all the time, causing me pain" — but before
that thought arose, it was not present! So we can deduce that that thought is not true. All of your thoughts will eventually reveal themselves not to be true.

We base our lives on the idea that things are constant and continuous, but neither of those things is true. You can look and see for yourself. We put so much pressure on ourselves to fix the problems, work on them, plan for them, be a superhero around them all, all day, every day. When in reality, we really don't have to do any of that. All of that only ever appeared in thought, in the idea that I exist in a continuous, constant flow of thought, and I have to work hard to keep that "life" working properly.

But the truth is, that is not your existence. You know this. You feel it in your bones, in your heart. You don't have to work to be. Keep coming back to awareness and notice how little impact those passing thoughts have on you. Remember that for next time. And after a while, you just won't think of yourself as a person anymore, because the whole person-creating mechanism will have been seen through.

Between and pervading all those passing thoughts of personal needs and cares — there is just you alone — just love alone. This is the happy ending that already is.

Nothing is Conditioned

I recently answered a question about whether it is necessary to address the conditioning, when inquiring towards liberation. I said in my answer that Yes, it is necessary to address the conditioning. But I have to qualify what I mean by that.

Addressing the conditioning, in self-inquiry, does not mean going to the therapist and digging through every hangup you have acquired since the moment you were born. Now, I'm not saying
not to go to the therapist — therapy can be really useful and sometimes even urgent, as things are unfolding and as you are facing your ego.

But the kind of "addressing the conditioning" we talk about in self-inquiry is different. It is not digging through the infinite pile of reasons you got so screwed up in the first place. Instead it is seeing how the mind tricks you into believing that that screwed up person is you.

There are many layers to this kind of
discrimination — that's what it's called in Vedanta. It is called discrimination because you are applying your intellect to tell the difference between you and the apparent person you take yourself to be. And there are many layers to it because this false idea of a personal self pervades your apparent being, from the grossest layer — the flesh of the body — to the most spiritual and subtle layer — the sense of "I am." And everything in between.

Vedanta helps you see how many layers you identify with as an apparent person, and how the deception is accomplished. Little by little, layer by layer, by applying your intellect and the tools of Vedanta, discrimination between me and apparent-me is complete.

Conditioning is not personal. Because you (might) feel that your conditioning determines what you do, think, and feel, you mistakenly assume that the conditioning is your
personal conditioning. But there is no personal conditioning. Conditioning is (apparent) matter, acting as it must act, based on everything in the universe that came before. It knows no person. Matter appears, and the universe happens. Bodies appear and actions happen. Thoughts and feelings happen. But nowhere in there has a person been created.

Conditioning isn't even the right word for it. Conditioning is training, and there is nothing being trained. We're just talking about a life as you see it unfolding, and appearing to be acting out certain learned behaviors and thought patterns. Maybe it would be better to call it the unfolding. There is truly nothing personal in the unfolding of the universe.

What is conditioned? Nothing. There is nothing to be conditioned. Okay now I'm sounding like John Wheeler! But John is correct — there is no separate person, there is no cause and effect. I've never argued with John's impeccable logic. I've only offered that there is a way, a method, that you can come to recognize this for yourself, and that is with the tools of the teaching of Vedanta.

Addressing the conditioning, then, in my view, means inquiring into what is underneath
all of it, and seeing, bit by bit, layer by layer, that there is a false picture of a person who is trained to do this or that. Seeing that the picture is false is liberation, and the means to liberation is discrimination between you and the not-you.

Keep Coming Back

Keep coming back to the things you know:

1) There is only consciousness. This consciousness is all there is. Any personal story that appears on top of that consciousness is, let's say, artificial, and does not need to be monitored in order for you to be. You are free in every moment to simply be this uncomplicated consciousness. How nice is that? How lucky are you to know that?

2) Nothing in the world needs to get fixed. There is no amount of fixing, for your own personal life situation, or for humankind, that ever accomplishes anything. There will always be, in life, good things and bad things. If a good thing occurs, great, but the rule of life is that a bad thing will occur sooner or later. The world is not the place to look for any permanent goodness.

As seekers, we have a tendency to think that there is a permanent solution — that other people may have their lows and their fears, but we aren't supposed to have that, we're supposed to have the ticket out. So I think that hard times in life are particularly hard for seekers. Non-acceptance of life's ups-and-downs seems to be built in to our seeking equation. So be easy on yourself in this regard — life is tough for you!

There IS a permanent solution, but it's not in the world. The world has nothing to offer. The world can't provide freedom from the pain of living, NOR can it provide the lasting, unshakeable freedom that we seek in our spiritual inquiry. We're not going to find either of those freedoms in the world. So it's time to remind ourselves once again: the world has nothing to offer.

We might find great joy in life, and be passionate about wonderful things, like grandchildren, or service, or work that we love. But just don't confuse passion with freedom from the duality inherent in that passion.

3) What you think of as yourself is just conditioning. Inquire into your actions, your thoughts, your feelings, and see for yourself. Is there any real "you" there that is independent? Look and see how deep it goes — see if you can find anything that is not conditioning. The layers get very thin and hard to spot, which is the advantage of using the tools of Vedanta to help you spot them. Once you peel all those layers away as "not-me," what remains? Consciousness. You.

4) There is no continuity in time. There is no connection between the "you" of your story right now and the "you" of your story a moment from now. There is nothing happening now that "causes" something to happen next. So anything that is troubling you now can be dropped right now. In consciousness, there is no law which says that a thing appearing now will still be appearing in the next moment. In consciousness, limitlessness is the name of the game. Spontaneous healings, miracles — everything is possible.

5) Ishvara (God) is taking care of the world. You don't need to worry about it. The universe is benign, and you are being taken care of. Whatever is needed, Ishvara will provide. Ishvara never screws up. Ishvara smoothes out the road ahead of you. You can relax.

These are only a few of the things that you know. I suggest you keep coming back to them, and whatever else you have in your personsal toolbox, whenever you find yourself caught up in stories of separation and pain. You will find that the more you bring yourself back to what you know, the easier it will get, and the less time you will spend wandering in the dark.

This is really true — I guarantee it!

Tired of Not Being Happy?

Is it that you are not happy now, and you want to be? If you want to be happy, that must be sometime in the future that you are talking about, right? But what about now? Don't you want to be happy right now? Maybe you already are.

Is there really anything here that you can call unhappiness? Look what is here in this moment — right now, there is peace, there is stillness. There might be some movement on that stillness, and that movement might be a thought that refers to some other time — the past or the future — but that movement doesn't actually MOVE the stillness, does it? Look in your experience and see.

Isn't the stillness still here?

Are you tired of feelings of anxiety? Let's look at those. A fearful thought can arise out of the blue. A little squeeze of anxiety might hit you in the gut somewhere. And what about it? We are all remembering that feeling, right now. And we don't want it to happen anymore. But in this very moment, isn't there a stillness, a peace? Anxiety can only be in the future or the past, but it can't be right now.

"But when I'm in it, it's awful! I run a whole story out in my head and it gets so bad!"

I'll tell you why there is only peace and stillness here, and not anxiety. It's because you are beingness, you are awareness, and your nature is peace and stillness. When anxiety appears, it's just like anything else that appears — it belongs to the story.

Yes, it can be painful and it can be convincing. But it's not in reality. You are the only reality, and you are by nature peace and stillness, aware, being.

The story is self-perpetuating. It's job is to self-perpetuate, and it can do that because of your thoughts. You create a story that is not really there. A whole world of story! As soon as your thoughts are pulled from the story, where is it?

It is nowhere. There is only stillness.

So look for things that only belong to the story. This is what
Vedanta calls discrimination. It's knowing what is real and what is story. As you do your inquiry, you will learn more and more things that are only in the story, and you will learn that things in the story have no power to hurt you, to make you anxious, or to make you unhappy.

Each time an anxious or unhappy thought appears, ask about where it is, where it lives, what it refers to. Does it refer to itself only? Its own story of itself, and the other components of the story? Yes, I guarantee, that thought of the story only refers to the some other part of the story. And you do not live in the story. You do not exist anywhere in the story. Your being is totally independent of the story.

And so….you are free. Now, and all the time. If this isn't how it is for you, it's okay. It's nothing you need to get in the future. Just be present, think of stillness, and it is here.

You are Goodness

What is your spiritual priority? Is your priority to find the truth, know the truth of who you are? Is that a goal? What happens after the goal of knowing the truth is reached? Is the priority happiness? To be happy, to live as a happy person? To live as a free person? To love everything that appears?

It's important to look past the end goal. It's good to know what all of this seeking is for. And it's also good to know that the journey doesn't end when the goal is reached.

The goal is knowing the truth of who you are. This is not a static knowledge — it is an expanding one. This means that it's impossible to get all of it through the intellect. The intellect has to be on board, at the beginning, but the real expansion comes when the heart becomes involved. Your emotional truth — LOVE — will become more and more lived and experienced as your heart learns this piece, the emotional piece of the knowledge. This piece — the expansive love of Goodness — just keeps growing in you forever. It has no end. There is no limit to the amount of love God has in mind for you, for your experience.

So happiness and freedom are not prizes at the end of the search which can be plucked off and kept in your pocket. They are invitations to expand and explore your relationship with the love of Goodness, God's love. Happiness can't be yours as a static thing belonging to a person — happiness can only be in the dynamic expression and outward flow of love, through you and into the world. That is where you see the love appear, and where others also see it appear, through you. The goodness in the world is because of YOU.

There is no end to God and no end to Goodness. After the seeking is over, the journey to Goodness begins, and there is no end to this magnificent, brilliant journey.

Your Body is the Light

This body of yours is God. How could it be anything else?

Perhaps you have an image of your body that it is a separate thing. Perhaps you think of your body as an illusion. But your body is neither an illusion nor a separate thing.

Your body is an invitation to recognizing God's love and God's light in everything and every person. It may currently feel like your body is small, constricted, heavy, even ill or failing. But it is none of those things. It may feel like you are incapable of seeing the light of God in every person, every situation, but you are not. Not only are you capable, but this is who God intends you to be.

You have an idea about God, about God's infinite love and light. Hold your body in that same idea. Breathe that love and light into your body. This is the invitation. Your body is calling to you to recognize its God-presence. It calls to you with pain, with disease, with depression, even just with the gravity of daily life. Don't ignore the signs.

You have no power to bring God into the world any other way but through your very own body. This is your vehicle for light and love. You entered this world as pure light, but over time the circuits got conditioned to be constricted through your exposure to other people in the world. It does not have to remain that way. Your body can return to light just by your intention and thoughts.

Haven't you always known this? Haven't you just forgotten? I'm just reminding you that you can begin to re-remember your nature as light anytime you want. Maybe now.

Does Your Spiritual Life Feel Good?

What makes you feel good spiritually? Do you have passion in your spiritual life, excitement? If not, then you probably need to move on and find something else. Above all other considerations, your spiritual life should make you feel wonderful. It should be nourishing to you as a person. Isn’t that the point?

Do you feel like you are on an endless intellectual treasure hunt and always feel close, but never really get any increased satisfaction? Waiting for one final answer to appear is exhausting and unsatisfying. It can end up feeling like drudgery. And is it realistic?

The idea of enlightenment – a final goal – implies that everything will be finished. Your suffering as a person will be over forever, and you will know yourself to be free. So, is that static? Is freedom a frozen thing? What is “not suffering” supposed to look like, and to whom?

Freedom is not living as a non-person. Freedom is living as a human being, unlimited by assumed parameters, journeying with God as your guide to a deeper and deeper understanding of what your role is here on Earth, as an outpicturing of God’s love in form, and trying to live up to that responsibility. Every moment of your life can be the joyous exploration of this privilege, of being human and divine at the same time.

You choose what your spiritual life is going to look like. If it is feeling dry or unsatisfying, uninspiring, it’s time to put some juice back into it. Feel wonderful! Don’t be a seeker, be a journeyer. It’s the journeying – the excitement of growing into your divinity – that alleviates the suffering, not the destination.

When is the Search Over?

When do we stop searching? When is it over? Is there some definitive sign? Is there some kind of dramatic shift or change in perception to let us know? Is there a subtle but unmistakable “click,” as we sometimes read about? It’s certainly an appealing notion, and it keeps us striving for that finality, but I don’t think it holds water, and does us harm in the end.

Is there a final door through which we walk, which when we turn around to see where we came from, we see that there was never a door to begin with? In my experience, there were dozens of those doors. Every door felt like the final door, but there was always another door. Why? Because it is the nature of the mind to look for doors, to look for mysteries and try to solve them.

When does it end? I found that it ended when I stopped looking for doors. Of course, this took a lot of preparation, but I believe that if you are reading this website, you yourself have already had years, perhaps decades, of preparation. It may be that for you, the only thing standing between you and the end of seeking is simply not knowing you can stop.

The act of stopping is an important one. Stopping is letting go of resistance to what is, right now. Resistance is painful, and yet we hang on to it, in the belief that there is more, there is better – some final, perfect, permanent knowledge or state, and we will find it, if only we keep looking. And we feel we are close – oh so close!

But “close” is the epitome of the pain of separation. Just out of my reach. “Close” says “I am not that.”

It’s important to stop feeding this painful misconception. Stopping is an act of faith. It’s stepping off the edge of the cliff, and seeing if our wings will carry us. It may be that this is not even a choice that we make ourselves. We might get pushed.

It’s funny that when we jump off this cliff, we’re actually jumping back into the world. What we are is evidenced here in the world. The holy Presence that is our true nature is here, in the infinite variety of expression, and we are privileged to enjoy the fullness of this expression in every moment. It is in this fullness that our true nature is known, when the resistance to it is abandoned. Our wings are fully extended, are proving themselves to be strong and trustworthy, and are carrying us to new heights indeed.

There is an irony to this, and a sense of coming full circle – what we wanted so badly to transcend in the first place becomes the heaven we were looking for all along.

Free by Nature

I am awareness.

I alone am real.

When I think, "I can't find me right now," that
is me. I am always present. A thought cannot appear without me.

I can never be lost. I can never be hidden.

The insentient thoughts appear in me, and the "I" mistakes itself for that. But only sentience — me — makes that possible.

Whatever is going on in the mind does not distract the mind from me.

Mind appears in me. Mind comes and goes. I am, free of mind.

Experience appears in me. Experiences come and go. I am, free of experience.

I remain pure, as an ever-changing world in thought appears on the movie screen of my mind. The world in thought appears, but is not real. I am the only reality.

Everything I know and experience, as an apparent person, is known because of me — awareness — the singular reality.

Whatever thought appears, how is that thought known? It is known because of me, awareness.

The thoughts are free to come and go. The awareness they appear in is ever-pure, never touched by a thought.

This awareness is who you are.

You are free.

Inquire and learn what can be negated as not real. What remains — you, awareness — is revealed as the one and only reality, free by nature.

Check out the
Vedanta page for my recommendations on how to accomplish this inquiry.