Connecting The Dots - Part 1
Updated: Mar 9, 2020
In this first post I would like to make a sort of personal summary to describe the most important realizations I had so far about me and the reality I live into, conclusions that are valid and valuable for whoever is on the path of discovering oneself.
"You thought you were you, but you are not you and never were.
For if you were you, you would be a lord, and the second of two.
Stop what you were thinking"
- Ibn Arabi Balyani"
Putting pen to paper this journey in form of a blog has a double function for me: it offers me the great opportunity to facilitate the integration into my daily life of all the different insights and realizations had along the way and it can represent a precious guide for whoever is interested in this work to realize what is possible to achieve by seriously committing in understanding oneself and the reality we live into.
Nothing will change outside you. The reality you find yourself will look exactly as it looks right now. Do not expect extraordinary visions to be a necessary part of the journey. What counts is that you will be changing along the journey and, as a consequence, the reality you live into will be perceived differently. The way you define yourself defines also the reality around you, that is to say, everything is relative and subjective to you.
From this single realization it becomes clear how important is to know what "I" means.
As I have already said in other posts, awakening or consciousness work is not composed by a single realization as it might appear from some spiritual teachings. It is an endless process that involves several steps that can help our self as humans to better navigate across this earthly life. Importantly, I came to realize that these steps are the same for everyone and therefore this blog and any other books or videos talking about this matter can help people that have just undertaken this path to safely orientate themselves along this journey. Being aware in advance of possible traps and pitfalls might facilitate your journey.
These steps do not have to be realized in the same order as I or other people did. This journey is not about becoming a copy of what Buddha or other spiritual figures have represented. Each of us is different, each of us is living in a completely different historical period, each of us will have to face problems that at the time of the Buddha were not even existing but since we all are the same “thing”, in the long run you will notice an overlapping of what has been described by me and others.
What makes our experience similar is the accepted and widespread scientific model of materialism: we are all convinced to be and to exist as separate physical individuals and that all the rest in existence does not include what we think we are. Our definition of "me" ends with our physical boundaries and not many people would open up to the possibility that the person in front of you, the stars in the sky and the cup you are holding while having breakfast is part of you. What makes so challenging the spiritual path is to open up to the possibility that those statements are actually true and that our vision of reality is highly distorted.
Along the journey you will realize that the concept of "I" is extremely flexible and relative to your understanding of reality: higher is your identification with the content and the narrative of mind, narrower will be your sense of self and vice versa. You will realize that all boundaries and limitations that seem to exist are superimposition given by mind over a reality that has none. For how non sense it might sound, you will realize that me, you, others, sun, stars etc are simply concepts, labels that do not give real justice to what these "things" truly are. Through mind we have given physicality to something that has no real substance.
Living in a society where materialism is so predominant, does not facilitate the transition in seeing things differently. Modern science is now opening to the fact that everything is connected but it lacks direct experience. Mathematical modeling, numbers, equations do not give any justice to the actual realization of oneness. Moreover, they do not offer the possibility for any real individual transformation that is what is truly needed for a social revolution. By telling people that we are all connected by some sort of field of energy does not make any good and it cannot induce the necessary shift in seeing reality differently.
Direct experience is the crucial aspect of this journey and intellectual and cognitive realizations alone cannot bring tangible effects. Grasping something with the mind represents only the first step but each insight has to be fully embraced and lived, it has to become part of our way of living. Each insight has to expand your sense of self and be powerful enough to change how you conduct in and relate to life. Only in this way real transformation can happen.
As far as my personal experience concerns and having read and listened other testimonies, the first big shift in defining what we are is the realization of no-self. At any moment in our life, we can become conscious that what we think we are, it is a misconception. We have confused what we do for what we are. An activity has become our essence. Mind has veiled our true nature. This step is probably the easier to accomplish because of its obviousness but it represents the point most people will never realize in their life. I have personally realized this fact at the age of 29 after having obtained a University degree and on the verge of finishing my PhD. All this knowledge was completely useless and probably deleterious in realizing my true nature. I have achieved all these goals without knowing on behalf of who.
I only recently came to realize that all the goals and achievements obtained throughout my life were acquired not by me but by mind. Me and mind were one and the same and this unawareness about our true nature is what causes so much suffering in most of people. By being unaware about our true nature, we become puppets controlled by powerful forces that were given to us to be used as we please rather than being used by them.
Conducting our own life being identified with mind means to live the life of others. Since we were child we have been exposed by any sort of knowledge from others in order to survive in this world. Our family, school, culture and tradition have shaped our reality by giving us guidance and without other alternatives we ended up taking those information as our identity in order to survive in a specific environment. The mind is a greedy entity, it is fed by knowledge and by identifying our self with it we become and behave according to what it has been given to it.
What you think to be in this precise moment is the result of the accumulation of pieces of information that have shaped your mind: which food you eat, how you dress, which religion you follow, which sport you practice, which career you have chosen, how you sit, the language you speak, the political party you support, what you think is moral and immoral etc are all relative to the historical period you were born and to the influence other minds had on you, minds that in turn have been indoctrinated by others. And by believing to be the mind, the very act of identification with this web of concepts means to be a puppet, it means to have lived the life of others.
That is what I did and what most people are doing. They are living the life of mind. I personally was lucky enough that the information that have shaped my mind were not too dysfunctional and I was raised in a society were valuable values were present. But that is not the point. I have still lived the life of others: of my family, of my culture, of my society. And this is because I did not know who I was. I am not beating too much myself up for this situation because this realization is totally ignored by the most in our society and neither my family nor the education system I was raised into could teach me this important fact. Our society is focused on the content, not on the container. And content is mind, the container is what you truly are.
If you do not know you who are, you will create something that does not belong to you but to others.
Nevertheless, I was lucky enough to have met few people along the way that have shown me an alternative and after an initial resistance I was open to listen to what it was said. Of course the mind, that is, what I thought to be did not like much what was proposed because of the consequences I would have had to accept: change a job that I felt was not mine but that was giving me good money; leave Switzerland, a place notoriously known to be one of the best country in Europe; leave my friends with which I had shared 5 amazing years and accept the fact that I had no idea what to do.
But having tasted what was possible and having walked my first steps into this journey ("First Glimpses Towards My True Nature"), the path was set for me. It was not possible to ignore it. Having realized in a blink of an eye that what I erroneously thought to be was the content, the mind, a voice that was constantly chattering in my head, it had represented a simple but shaking realization.
If before the subject I was calling "I" was identifiable with the whole physical body-mind structure, now I did not know anymore where to turn to to find myself. I realized that in the same way I could perceive the stars, other beings, the cup and the sound of a car, I could now perceive what I thought to be me. What I considered to be the source of perceptions, me, the body-mind, it was now being perceived, it became an object of perceptions. And what is perceived cannot perceive...
I did not know anymore who I was. Who was the one that was talking? Who was the one that was listening? Who was the one that was thinking? A voice kept trying answering to regain its ownership but I knew was not me but a simple thought. I have mislead myself for a web of thoughts for 29 years!
I did not know anymore what was this thing I have called "I" for so long. I simply became aware that what I thought to be "me" could now be observed, witnessed, known by something else that I have never noticed before. I had discovered that there was something beyond everything that I considered to be me, something that has been veiled by what I thought to be me.
All my thoughts, memories, emotions, feelings, bodily sensations, perceptions were now seen by "me", whatever "me" meant. They were not anymore "me" but a complex web of movements that "I" could watch. The subject I thought to be, the one that was feeling and perceiving the world had now become an object to be observed, felt and perceived. I had discovered that there was something I had overlooked for most of my life that was not possible to point, it was not possible to be seen as a movement, it was impossible to know where it was coming from.
No matter how hard I was trying to catch myself, the only thing I could only stumble upon were other feelings, perceptions, emotions, thoughts, inner voices, sounds, bodily sensations. All I could find were objects of perception and never the perceiver, never myself. Through meditation and contemplation I had discovered the existence of something that could not be perceived.
I had finally discovered Myself, something mysterious that had neither form nor shape, it had no physical attributes or features whatsoever, it had no limitations and boundaries. A no-self. Myself was not ending anymore where my skin ended. If before the sound of a song was considered as something perceived by me, the body-mind, now everything was at the same level. If my bodily sensations were part of me, also anything else had to be included as me...
I have realized that it was the mind, a structure that now could be perceived rather than being identified with, that was drawing limits onto a reality that has none.
To be continued next week.
Thanks for reading.