I don’t exist. Neither do you. At least not in the way that we think.
Curious? Stay with me:
If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s easy to see just how much our thoughts can dictate our experience. I’d spent most of my life believing, with ferocious and ever-growing intensity, that “I” was somehow able to be located in the brain and in a thought.
Along with believing myself to be a thought came a natural sense of division (here’s “me” in here and there’s all else out there) which created defensive behaviors large and small. A general sense of “not okayness” was also part of this territory.
Identifying with thoughts was the root of my suffering. My mood could and often did change on the drop of a hat — a thought might arise, in the midst of an otherwise peaceful day, that said, ‘something is wrong’. The thoughts would often point to some (truly non-existent) character flaw, failing, or perceived problem.
Have you felt this?
This didn’t just happen sometimes. This happened constantly – thoughts arose all day, pointing out flaws, looking for trouble, replaying yesterday, and daydreaming tensely about the better things or more troublesome things that might come tomorrow. With many of the thoughts came an impending sense of doom and imaginary enemies and threats were perceived around every corner. I was anything but present with my experience.
A total self-obsession begins to grow as a result of indentifying with thought – there may be a need to constantly remedy, appease, satisfy, and pacify this thought-based self. Interestingly, this self-obsession can and often does create a self-disdain, as well; insecurities and a general feeling of unworthiness can be part of the territory. For me, I went to great lengths to cover up these insecurities by perfecting my physical appearance, squelching the feelings with various addictions and behaviors, and building an even more elaborate story of a “tough girl” to conceal the vulnerability.
I was a prisoner to the thought system.
I hadn’t ever entertained the possibility that I was not my thoughts, perceptions, or feelings, and the thought-based sense of self was so unreal that it took such a great deal of effort to maintain; hence, suffering and the need to prove and improve myself was perpetuated. Have you been there?
Have you entertained the possibility that suffering is so often connected with this faulty system?
Once the possibility had been entertained that I was not that which I had always taken myself to be (a thought-based self), it wasn’t long before the entire charade was seen through. Suddenly all the things in my life that I’d so strongly identified with were seen to be nothing more than stories. I’d built, in thought, a conceptual understanding of life and a conceptual idea of “me”.
All of the stories I’d attached and clung to began dissolving. What took their place was a profound sense of stillness and presence, one which is so captivating and illuminating that going back to the stories, beliefs, judgments, and small sense of “me” would be near impossible. Admittedly, I’d clung to that sense of self tightly, unwilling to let my stories go (no matter how weighty they’d truly become). I felt like these things defined me and I was very unsure about a life without them – who was I minus stories about my past and future and without the need for staunch opinions, beliefs, and perspectives? A life without those things seemed bleak, impossible, and colorless.
However, it’s quite the opposite.
What is a life without “me” like?
Presence and profound stillness is commonplace. A sense of being bound by the clock dissolves and time isn’t felt in the same way – rather, moments feel infinite and unbounded. Senses are heightened and all things appear magical, more alive, and infused with life. Divisions disappear (only thoughts can create a sense of “me” in here and “them” out there). Closeness is felt with all things, nothing barred. Defenses dissolve. Intuition is heightened. Circumstances that may have felt stressful or negative before are seen from a more neutral space – all movements of life are seen with equanimity, compassion, and openness. Emotions aren’t felt as “mine”, but are rather seen to be movements of life that aren’t unique to me — when an emotion, thought, or feeling arises that brings with it a sense of sadness, contraction, or darkness, there’s a desire to sit with it, explore it, and hold it lightly. Vulnerability, authenticity, and openness are natural and easy. A profound intimacy is felt with all experience. There is an overall sense of traveling lighter – suddenly that which may have once felt heavy or burdensome feels light and manageable. Life flows naturally and easily. Thoughts are seen to be just another movement of life, appearing, rising, and falling away, always changing and in flux. Thoughts slow down significantly.
So, how to slowly dissolve a sense of “me”?
Begin investigating the truth of it. When a thought arises, ask yourself who had the thought. Ask yourself what is aware of the thought. Can a thought be aware of itself? What is the nature of that which is aware of the thought and aware of this experience? If that seems confusing, weighty, or deep, stick with it — this type of self-inquiry is magic.
Similarly, when a thought, emotion, or feeling arises, before you claim it as your own, investigate its nature. Explore it. Find out what it’s made of. Where is it felt in the body? Without needing to analyze or interpret any of it, what is it felt like in its pure state? What is the noticer of these things?
Also, when you find that you’ve been engrossed in a long conversation in your head, remove that attention for even a second. Doing this creates a new possibility, one that might suggest that you are not, in fact, a thought.
Without referencing time, who are you?
Without referencing yourself in thought, who are you?
Without using words, concepts, or ideas, who are you?
Never stop exploring.
What you might find is brilliant beyond your wildest dreams (and it’s closer than you might imagine).
Peace, love, and no-thing-ness,