Who Are You Really?
If you had no thoughts, and if your girlfriend or boyfriend asks you what you were thinking about, and you say to her or him that you were thinking how you had no thoughts, your thought would be that you had no thoughts, which is a thought. But before that, you had no thoughts. In that case, you knew you had no thoughts because of awareness, not thought.
Mind and consciousness (awareness) are two different things… and awareness is not a thing. And if you’re honest, and look deeply into it, you’ll have to admit you don’t know what it is. (Please see Definitions/Glossary at bottom of page for help with terminology).
And, if you see that these passing thoughts are not you (regardless of what they are), nor are the passing perceptions and sensations who you are, nor anything you claim is objectively “real”: your bank account or career are not really who you are, nor the changing associations of people in your life, nor the body when you were in your mother’s womb, nor the elderly body, nor the left arm, nor the right leg, nor the kidney (which could be put in someone else’s body), nor the brain, nor any particular thing is “you” – no body part nor body collection of parts – which are only known through sensations and perceptions and concepts (thoughts) in any case. Then who are you? Who are you really?
Now, follow me carefully. Maybe you’ll argue that you are the sum total of this changing soup. That’s a strange way of thinking to my mind, because if you were to identify right now what you really are, “subjectively” so to speak (we already covered “objectively” in the paragraph above), everything is in flux to varying degrees, and to pin your identity, your *reality* on some leaf passing in the wind is incredibly puny and paltry way of looking at yourself. You aren’t that puny, paltry thought. It really wouldn’t be much to go in. It’s so little to go on that it disappears in the next second when you stop thinking about it. So you are not just some little thought in the wind? No, you have to ask, what’s aware of this leaf?
OK, so I am not a thought, we are not a thought. That has to be admitted. Are we a feeling, or set of feelings? If a feeling is a set of sensation and thinking – let’s say thought thought of a loved one that contacted you last night, fills you with a sense of warmth and connection: that feeling is gone in a short while, when you start thinking of something else, like work. Then you have a different feeling. So are you that feeling? Or, let’s say someone on the freeway cuts you off and that irritates you, or the cop that pulls you over for no reason, when you are in a hurry to get to an appointment, annoys and angers you, are you that feeling? The next day or next month, you’ve forgotten about it (unless you bring it to mind). So are you that feeling? No.
Perhaps you are a collection of memories, good times or bad times, incredible and not so incredible memories. You have to bring them up, hold on, think, be aware of them for them to exist. Even the written ones, or the photos, mean nothing unless someone is looking at them, conscious of them, thinking and feeling about them. So what are you – just a collection of memories? No, obviously not.
Keep in mind here, we are talking about what’s real, now, in your awareness, not over time, since over time all you have is some record in a book of the past or on a memory card, or in your mental memory (the future is made of the same: speculation based on memory and thinking and imagining). We don’t want to say we are just a dream like that, like some page in a book. Surely you feel more substantial that that. You feel there is something here, now that you are, for real.
So perhaps we feel that it is having goals, or a goal or a purpose that defines who we are, or is the most important parameter. “His goal was to make people’s lives better by helping them with their heart conditions.”, or “Her purpose she felt was to make people happy with her singing, and spread love.” And along with that, we may reflect that it is our values, what we see as valuable in human life, human interaction, and how we live our lives: what we do. That is who we are: “He was a good guy”, “She was a wonderful sweet woman”… and this is all true in a human sense, and in a relative way.
There is simply no “relative”: the totality is not in relation to anything else, since it is the totality. It stands alone. You are alone. Or to write it more cleverly, use a capital “o” in “alOne”. You, we, everything, is all one. To put it in theistic, dualistic terms, “there is only God.” This may sound like it’s lonely or unforgiving or scary or absolutist or pointless to point out, but in fact it is freedom. And in this freedom it uncovers, if you can see it, values and a life and a goal or purpose that are extraordinary, and infinite in scope or potential. It opens up doors you didn’t know existed. it is peace. dHarmony can emerge spontaneously…
What to do?
Start living as if it were true, and experiment, See how it goes. This means, admitting, or seeing that YOU DON”T KNOW that who you are, what you are, and what =anything else is, but it has qualities that peek out at “random” moments, of love, boundlessness, peace, security, warmth, friendliness, beauty, truthfulness, connectedness… and we may dismiss or rationalize this as a passing brain state, a mental phenomenon, a special thing, and the old programming that “life is hard” or what3ever, pop back in. The sense of separation, of being a lonely isolated spot of matter and energy reside, or seem to, in our being. Not a problem: just see it, and don’t believe it. Take it all with a grain of salt”: “The mind doing its thing again.” Don’t add ignorance to ignorance by making a big deal out of it.
To see goals and values another way: they may seem to give us a sense of identity, and they can serve temporarily, if not held too rigidly or identified with. But when did that goal or purpose come in, and when does it go out: they weren’t always there. So do you really want to pin your hopes and identity on that, on something not absolutely true, that is an illusion, a house built on sand? That can be a lot of work, to keep trying to rebuild your hopes on goals and dreams and human values. It’s fine to enjoy them for a while, but the question of the moment is, what is ultimately real, or what is ultimately who you are, *regardless* of the utility of the moment. Don’t wait until you are 70, 80, or on your death bed to ask the real questions. One can enjoy the moment and still enquire into oneself: that is what is being suggested as the ultimate self-help: a self-help beyond self help.
Groups and Tribes
Or perhaps what gives you meaning, delivers that sense of purpose or meaning is the sense of security of a religion or of your politics or your group of spiritual people, friends, practices and beliefs. Beyond the horizon of that box, if you look at the deep, deep nagging questions, where at some level one knows that the absolutist, fundamentalist statements handed down by others, by authority, by some prophet, some leader, some book, some teacher or guru … may not be absolutely true, are open to question … beyond that is freedom, where true inner meaning for oneself opens up to be revealed of being of true utility in one’s life. Is it really of such great utility to be killing others, even if with words and thoughts, because they don’t believe the same thing, are “heretics”, “losers”, “stupid”, “idiots”, to be laughed at, ridiculed, looked down on, whatever? Why do you need to feel superior: what insecurity is lurking in your heart, and why – what is the root of it: isn’t it being separate, the sense of separation, and thus wanting to find solace and comfort in a group, in your tribe? If you can stand on your own two feet and be free and at peace and loving and happy, then the whims and edicts of the group and their need for allegiance, your willingness to “go along” or be controlled by (and try and control) is not needed.
Is it just the sense of belonging — is it a set of thoughts and feelings all of these things again come and go — as wonderful as they are, such as the sense of belonging to a tribe or group for community? ask yourself, not anyone else. You are the only one that can be free, not anyone else. You are not here to save the world. One saves the world by saving oneself from tyranny of the mental. Freedom spans outward to cover the globe, the planet, the inner universe and the outer were never separate to begin with. You are here now.
I’m not pooh-poohing any of these things, I’m asking what’s real, what’s really real, so we can find some absolutely solid ground to stand on, for good.
Wouldn’t it be better to be free and happy in a free way rather than depending on anything, especially anything external?
For some of us it might be desires that keep us going, hopes for getting what we want — be at that love relationship or the house or the career or the fame or the baby or the sports car or the wealth or the creative idea or perfect health or perfect looks … this or that.
You can have all of this or have that. Nothing is taken away. All that’s taken away is what you don’t really need: all the illusions and seeking and grasping in fear and desire that keep you crazy.
When a desire is fulfilled — let’s say the love relationship that you hoped for — yes there is some peace and happiness revealed, for a little while. But what if your assumptions about it all were based in illusion – the holding one’s happiness hostage to an idea of love you adopted from the culture and family and friends – and the partner runs off with someone else. Then what happens to your peace and happiness? Or if they stick around, what if they behave in a way you don’t like, we were not expecting, a way that does not conform to your inner rulebook or the rules of the group? What happened to your peace and happiness?
I don’t mean to pick things apart or poo poo love relationships or family, or anything else. I am simply saying, if you want to be free of illusions and disappointments and a fake … whatever, then the time is now to look at it. But do it easily, and out of gentle curiosity and love, Relaxation and openness.
All the love and friendship and community is still there in the world, or out of the world… so what have you got to lose, really? Your identity? No, not really, not if it’s resting in awareness, in knowing the reality of the true Inner Heart, and allow one’s life to align with that, seeing beauty love and truth reveal themselves in the so-called outer life.
I use “mind” in the sense of #2 below:
In the wisdom teachings, you will see the word and concept of “mind” used in different ways:
1. mind (with a small ‘m’) is thinking (as the term is used in Zen sometimes to contrast it with Mind with a big “m”; New Age beliefs; as well as common conversation, etc).
2. mind (with a small ‘m’) is the sum of all thinking, perceptions and sensations (phenomenal content of awareness) right now.
3. Mind is universal consciousness or intelligence (Buddhism, etc.), or “the energy behind life” (in Three Principles Psychology or “3P”).
Thought/thinking: the movement of awareness we identify as a sound that is meaningful to use, in the moment of meaning.
Awareness: Synonymous with Consciousness. The reality, whatever that is, that is hearing these words right now. We don’t know what that reality is, but we can know what it is not.