The Great Misunderstanding
The Illusion of Separation. We are all One.
If you look from the point of view of a wave you could say, ‘I am a wave and I can see all you other waves over there.’ All my conditioning has led me to believe that I am a wave, separate from all the other waves, but looking from another perspective I see all the waves are always part of the ocean. Everything is ocean. There is no real separation. The waves are never separate from the ocean and we are never separate from consciousness.
The ‘me’ we generally consider ourselves to be has been created gradually over many years through conditioning, imitation and identification. We could call it the false self. We experience the world from this illusory ‘me’, and we absolutely believe in it and identify with it.
Then the question arises, ‘If I am not who I think I am, this ‘me’ who I identify with, then who am I?’ When we do this investigation we discover that the false self, or the small ‘I’, exists only as memories from the past or projections into the future. It is all those memories, ambitions, desires, hopes and fears. As we go through our day we relate to everything we meet from this ‘I’. We are busy with our concepts, ideas and beliefs and we are trying to control or manipulate our lives to be what ‘I’ want.
There is nothing to do if you just accept it. We are very attached to trying to change the illusion into the perfect illusion, but a perfect illusion is still an illusion. The truth is that nothing is happening and there is nobody to do anything.
Through examining the false self all our wrong ideas and beliefs fall away to reveal what we always were, what I call the Self or the eternal Self. We become present with life unfolding. The waves subside and we see the great blue ocean that was always there. That’s who we are. It was just a great misunderstanding, a wrong identification.
Supporting Self Awareness
Build up Self-Awareness to become the Witness, and see how you lead your Life.
By meditating regularly you can develop a quieter mind, by which
I mean a mind that is not busy, not churning up as many thoughts
and distractions as normal, and not creating a kind of background
buzz or fog in your life that prevents you from being clear. A quiet
mind is an important foundation for awareness because it allows
you to look more deeply inside yourself. Once you get the hang of
it, then you can bring it into your daily life more and more easily.
The introspective quality of meditation supports you in
becoming a witness to everything you experience. The witness is
able to look inside and register whatever is happening. This is also
With self-awareness you can see how a thought is created in the
mind. If it has come from the mind it is not real. It’s only an illusion.
It’s just a thought. You might have a thought that somebody is against
you, but it is just a thought; it’s not real. If you can become quiet
enough and self-aware enough you can see this thought coming out
of nothing and you can just leave it alone.
Slowly our own struggles, our own story, our desires and fears and belief of how it should be become further and further away. Everything seems to be alright; existence has its small victories – we give them up willingly, our trust increasing, our surrender increasing, a real excitement in letting existence take over. From the past we know the tremendous effort that was needed to keep the ship leaning into the wind, keeping it moving forward. Now we start to let that effort go, step-by-step, small victory by small victory, our trust increasing, seeing that nothing awful is happening.
Actually we start to feel a little happier each day, a little more peaceful and empty. There are more smiles and laughter, less seriousness, no sadness. It’s just okay the way it is; we can cope with whatever it is. It’s as good as it gets right now. Simply, blissful, relaxed and peaceful. An enormous peacefulness, and we become ready to surrender our old world – my story. We just want to let it go, be an adventurer into the unknown, the unknowable, into the unfolding mystery.’
What is Real? Life is about Waking Up
In a way, you have to go out of the Garden of Eden in order to understand it. We can say the Ego gives us an Opportunity to develop Consciousness.
We adults get lost in the idea of being separate. Why does that
happen? Why not always live in Truth? As babies we don’t have much
sense of ego. In the beginning, a baby doesn’t feel any separation
between himself and his mother. Then, as he learns that everyone
and everything has a name that distinguishes it from everything else,
this sense of separation gradually increases. Slowly he develops an
ego. It happens in a natural way. As the sense of separation leads
to the formation of an ego, so the identification with a false self
develops, which inevitably leads to suffering.
Eventually, our desire to be free from this suffering causes us to
try and understand it. We can investigate the nature of the ego by
becoming quiet and looking inward. When it is finally revealed as
false it disappears, bringing us back to our original nature. We are
back in the Garden of Eden. But now there is a difference because
there is consciousness. As little children we have no ego, but we
don’t know that; we are not conscious. We have to go out of the
Garden of Eden in order to understand it. We can say the ego gives
us an opportunity to develop consciousness, and come to our true nature.
In our journey of life, through our upbringing, we very often become divided. We can’t accept ourselves as we are because we have come to believe we are not okay like this and we have to be different. This message comes to us in many different ways from many different sources. That’s why it’s so difficult just to be as we are.
Without even realising, we can’t accept ourselves. We become
divided because the judgments that were put on us as children are
like voices that become thoughts. These thoughts stay with us. They
are no longer coming from parents or society – now they are part of
the structure of our minds.
We become our own judge, constantly judging ourselves that
who we are is not alright. It’s a funny paradox, because how can we
be different? We can only be as we are.
‘Be as you are.’ Actually, what can you do? Even if you spend your
whole life trying to be somebody else, in the end you’ll come to see
that you can only be as you are. There is no other possibility. And
anyway, if existence wanted you to be somebody else, then probably
you would be somebody else. But probably it wanted you to just be
as you are. It’s a very beautiful invitation.
The Way of the Heart
The Moment of Realisation takes only a second, but for that to happen you have to be Available.
Traditionally, there are two paths to Self-realisation. There’s the Way
of Knowledge and the Way of the Heart. Very different, but they
come to the same Truth. The Way of Knowledge leads to a moment of
understanding where you realise that the construction ‘my life’, which
you have been building for many years, doesn’t exist, that it was always
The Way of the Heart – devotion – leads to Truth through surrender. You constantly surrender to existence everything that you know to be ‘me’. You constantly give up everything into the fire. In this way you come to the same Truth. Because of the many small surrenders, this big ‘me’, the illusion, is simply given up into the fire, and in that moment it ceases to exist. Either way, the ego, the false self, will be seen not to exist. Either way, it’s a total death of the ‘I’.
It is surrender. It is a giving up of ‘me’. It is, in effect, a deconstruction or melting away of the ego. It is a melting away of the one that knows, the one that judges, the one that does something. Surrender, or devotion, means a deep giving up, an offering to God. God is everywhere and God is everything; God is also you. It is surrender to each moment’s unfolding.
It is about giving up the knower and giving up everything inside
you that you think you know. It can be a little scary. You can become
terrified. Surrender can only work if there is deep trust. In the West we
have difficulty trusting anything or anyone. We only trust our ‘story’ –
which is a pity, really. The Way of the Heart is about opening. When
you are living in that openness you can feel how easy it is to trust and
surrender. When you meet someone who has a very open heart, or is
very much in their heart, then you’ll have a sense of this person being
with themselves and pulsating with energy. There is a lot of joy, fun,
spontaneity and playfulness. When you have a deep trust your whole
being opens to life. You become available.
How we Sabotage Ourselves
If we really look at our Fears, we can that see they are based on Nothing.
We all have so many reasons to be afraid. We can’t move because of this fear. What are all these fears about? If you delve back inside these fears, what do you come to? Nothing. We are all afraid of nothing. We are all afraid of emptiness, of not existing. For the ego or false self it appears like death. That’s why we ‘blah, blah, blah’ all day long. And what is this ‘blah, blah, blah’ about? It is to convince yourself that you’re alive, to remind you that you’re not dead. It is to convince yourself that this emptiness that you really are, this nothing that you really are, is not true. It’s a big step if you can see when you do that.
If you start to go into it, you’ll find out that the basic fear is always the same. We are all interested in coming to Truth, and yet what are we most afraid of? Truth. And what is truth? It is also love and beauty and peace. On one hand we want these things, but on the other hand we are afraid of them.
You have to understand this fear and how it binds you. The conditioned mind believes itself to be a somebody. This somebody is afraid – afraid of this, afraid of that. We accept this fear as if it’s a fact, and then we can’t move because it becomes real. We can’t see that this is all going on in our own mind. We are creating an idea and then being afraid of it. When you really look, it is so ridiculous. You can’t even imagine you would ever do that.
Most people’s lives are completely in bondage because of fear. As you come very close to the moment of awakening, basically what you are faced with is that everything you believe yourself to be is simply not true. You start to see this illusion, you start to understand it and you also start to see that this is a kind of death. Naturally, there’s a lot of fear arising from that. I think a lot of people would deny this because they don’t realise they are in fear.
This deep fear is a natural part of the conditioned mind and so having this fear is also a sign that the person is coming close to a true understanding. That's how people often sabotage themselves, but in another way you could say, 'Well maybe this is a natural part of the whole journey.' The mind is always afraid of the unknown, and it is not possible to know what will happen when you let go of the familiar. But if you stay in that fear then you stay in the prison of the known, the familiar. Then you can never meet Truth.
Reminders to stay Present
The Idea of Self-enquiry is that it constantly brings the Mind back to its Source.
Most of the time we are not present with what is actually happening
but are preoccupied with movies and stories that are going on inside
our head. Realising this creates an opening where we can begin to
see that all of these stories come down to the more fundamental
story of who ‘I’ really am, because this ‘I’ – my life, my story, me – is
the crux of how it all works.
If you want peace and happiness in your life, if you want to
become awakened, enlightened in this life, then you will inevitably
be faced with this question of the ‘I’. We believe in the false ‘I’. We
believe we are these beliefs and desires, this whole package we call
‘my life’. It is this wrong identification with the idea of a separate ‘I’,
a separate somebody, that is the barrier to our living in an awakened
state. So, we need some kind of remembering.
This remembering can be done through Self-enquiry, a technique passed down through the ages from the wisdom and religious traditions of the East, and particularly spoken about by Sri Ramana Maharshi. He was an Indian Saint who lived at the foot of the sacred mountain, Arunchala, in South India.
With Self-enquiry, we are not interested in the subject of the thought. We are interested to find out ‘To whom are these thoughts arising?’ The answer that comes will be, ‘to me.’ So you can ask, ‘Well, who is this me?’ You inquire into the nature of this ‘Me.’ When you start to investigate that, in the beginning it may be a kind of intellectual inquiry, and you’ll have answers like, ‘I’m a man. I’m a father. I’m a dentist’—or whatever. But that doesn’t help very much, of course. So then, on a deeper level, what’s the answer? Actually, there’s no word. There’s no answer. What really happens when you start to ask these two questions is the dissolving of the thoughts, where you just end up still, quiet. The answer is that it takes you into this emptiness. It takes you into your true nature.
To help ground this, one of the most powerful devices I can encourage is just to stay quietly alone. We are very used to relating all the time with a whole bunch of people in various situations and just to be alone is an amazing support, and interestingly it is very confronting.
When you really stay alone you see that you don’t need to reach
out to someone who you hope will give you something. What you experience, just on your own, is an enormous sense of wellbeing, nourishment and love.
Awake and Free
Your natural State is 'Wow!' You don’t have to do anything for That.
When we’re young we feel the pressure of achieving goals and
trying to understand the point of our lives, but a big discovery is to
realise that life has no point. Your mind wants it to have a point,
but if you really investigate it you won’t be able to find one. If there
is a point you could say it would be to find out who you are, but
once you know who you are – then what? You still have to have
breakfast, and you still have to cook lunch and wash your clothes.
Unfortunately, awakening doesn’t come with a private servant and
other such perks. You have to live your life just as before.
In one way, nothing really changes – except that everything is very simple and you don’t have to find something special in order to be content. The reality is that you’re content all the time. Really seeing this creates a strange situation, because suddenly you discover that actually there’s nothing that can make you feel good. You can play games like, ‘Ah! Chocolate is good; ice-cream is good,’ but actually everything is good. Even without anything, ‘being’ is good!
Nothing is missing! What is really true is just now! We have this
moment; that’s all. With this understanding life becomes paradise
– because you are truly free. Free from everything you call ‘me’. The
way to live an awakened life is to simply be. There is no goal or even
any intention. It is all about nothing.
Discover you have been lulled into accepting a robotic functioning based on the conditioning to which your mind has been subjected. Entertain the possibility of the attachment to the separate false self dissolving. Understand life has no point other than knowing yourself to be awareness and to enjoy the play of each moment unfolding.
I had dinner in a Chinese restaurant last week with a three-year-old girl and her dad. There were chopsticks in a packet. This
was enough to keep her entertained for the whole evening. First she
opened the packet, then she put the chopsticks in her apple juice and
then she played hitting herself on the head with them. Every gesture
was wondrous for her. True awakening means you live a bit like that,
putting your chopsticks in the apple juice! In other words, not taking
life too seriously and living with lightness, humour and joy.