The seeker is he who is in search of himself. Give up all questions except one: ‘Who am I?’ After all, the only fact you are sure of is that you are. The ‘I am’ is certain. The ‘I am this’ is not. Strive to find out what you are in reality. To know what you are, you must first investigate and know what you are not. Discover all that you are not: body, feelings, thoughts, time, space, this or that. Nothing, concrete or abstract, which you perceive can be you. The very act of perceiving shows that you are not what you perceive. The clearer you understand on the level of mind you can be described in negative terms only, the quicker will you come to the end of your search and realise that you are the limitless being.
I had an experience this morning, actually before the morning meditation, as I was sitting quietly and I was thinking about the day and I suddenly realized I was thinking. And I realized that the thought I was having, the perspective, the person I thought myself to be, was… simply… the thought that I was having. I was mistaking myself for that thought. And then I realized that that applies to every thought. The person I think I am, the life I think I’ve had, this body, mind, and everything, boils down to just… a thought.
And it blew me away.
Did you have a question about it?
I suppose I don’t have a particular question… Just… as a realization…
… that all I think is merely a thought.
And a thought in consciousness; not “my” consciousness…
… but a thought in consciousness of which I am conscious.
Yes. So if you understand that what you previously considered yourself to be is just a thought about your self, but is not your self… Then, who are you?
Because it’s not enough to discover what you are not – although that is a very good and necessary first step. It’s necessary to discover what you are.
So having discovered I am not a thought… What are you?
I am the awareness that realized I was thinking.
Tell us about that.
It’s the presence that is always here…
Yes, but I meant… ahm… Tell us about its qualities; its nature. Don’t describe it; try to tell us about its nature. Which is another way of saying, tell us about the nature of your self. You have discovered, that this is who you essentially are.
So the first step is to discover what I am not,
the second step is to discover what I am,
and the third step is to discover the nature of what I am.
So, having discovered I am awareness, tell us about the nature of the awareness that you know yourself to be.
Accepting… Warm, compassionate…
Can it be disturbed?
Awareness cannot be disturbed. No.
Do you, Awareness, lack anything?
So, all that is necessary, having recognized this, is to stabilize this in your felt understanding, so that it is not a brief glimpse of yourself, but is your stable, felt understanding of your self. And to live the implications of this recognition in all aspects of your life. [Pauses looking smilingly at the man.] That’s a lifelong task for you.
I’m up for it! Thank you!
When the journey to God ends, the journey in God begins.
[Another man in the audience raises his hand, the microphone is given to him.]
Hi there. My question is, how does transcendence, transcending a particular separate self, interact with desire; desires of the most superficial nature and all the way to the most universal desires. What is the relationship of walking above it and desiring good for the world?
[Stretches his hand to return the microphone, Rupert intervenes]
Just keep the mike; just for a moment.
Ahm, your vision of transcendence is that awareness is somehow above and beyond experience. It is not. It is within and prior to, experience. You don’t have to escape from experience in order to access your true nature. You have to go deeply into the heart of experience; find out what is the source from which your experience rises. And so it’s not a movement of transcendence, it’s a movement of going deeply into your self. Inwards, or selfwards, or backwards. When I say backwards, I mean away from the objects that you are aware of, into the very essence of your self, the source of your experience which is aware of these objects. So it’s an inward movement, it’s not an escape from experience.
And then having touched that in yourself, investigated its qualities, its nature, just as we discussed in the previous conversation, and then you allowed that felt understanding to inform, first of all your thoughts and your feelings, and subsequently your activities and relationships –most people, when they go back, when they go to what they call themselves, they don’t go all the way back to their essential irreducible self; they just go to this self made out of thoughts and feelings, the apparently separate self, and having only gone that far, most people’s thoughts and feelings express that self, are informed by that self, and their subsequent activities and relationships are an expression of that sense of one’s self– so here we have to go further back, not just to this bundle of thoughts and feelings called “myself”. We go through the bundle of thoughts and feelings, to that which is prior to them: our essential irreducible being. And then we allow our thoughts and feelings to be informed by that felt understanding, and then subsequently our activities and relationships express those thoughts and feelings.
So it’s not that we cease having desires, it’s rather that our desires no longer express the fears, the neuroses, the frustrations, the sense of lack that is inherent in the separate self. But our desires come directly from the fullness of our essential irreducible being. And our desires as such are the means by which our essential being is brought out into the world of activities and relationships.
What I kind of… I’m curious about and I also feel like it would be useful for… at least myself, and perhaps many others… Just curious: What is your –if you could share, if you would mind sharing– what are you finding as a spiritual challenge for yourself, and…
What do I find…?
What do I find as a spiritual…
… challenge in your life, and if you don’t mind sharing the process you undergo, or anything you would like sharing, as I feel like that kind of helps put into concrete terms and… I don’t know, might provide some insights that we could utilize.
The challenge is to continually surrender one’s mind and one’s body to this presence of awareness, or, in religious language, to God’s presence, and allow one’s thoughts and feelings, and activities and relationships to be more and more deeply informed by this felt understanding.
So, I am in the midst of that process, and I hope I always will be, just like everybody else is. And so it’s this… this… this understanding is tailored to every single situation. At the moment, this understanding is being tailored to your question. When I leave here, I make it a message for my son, on my voice mail. I will then tailor my felt understanding to whatever situation is presented.
And it’s just a moment-by-moment response to whatever presents itself in my life, from the place of this felt understanding. And if there is… If something in my life triggers a residue of belief or –more importantly– feeling of the separate self, rather than responding in that moment from the separate self, the challenge then is to pause, trace my way back to my essential self, reassert my feeling understanding of myself as that, and then turn outwards again and respond to the situation.
Thanks. My question relates to the status of awareness in deep sleep. And, if you’d be so kind, could you try to describe the difference between your experience in waking state and your own experience in deep sleep.
Well the waking state is awareness in presence of objects, deep sleep is awareness in the absence of objects. As regards the status of awareness in deep sleep; the status of awareness is always the same; ever present, without limits, inherently peaceful, and unconditionally fulfilled. The status of awareness doesn’t change with the fluctuating states of mind.
And so because of the absence of objects in deep sleep, there is nothing to codify into memory to come back from deep sleep and say, “Aha, this was my experience in deep sleep”…
[Rupert inhales deeply, smilingly preparing to reply]
… so you’re saying it’s not an absence of awareness; it’s just an absence of something to bring back from that state?
Yes, deep sleep is not the absence of awareness, it is the awareness…
No, no. Absence of objects.
Deep sleep is not the absence of awareness; it is the awareness of absence.
[Man thinks about it for a while]
Hehehe… It’s highly not descriptive… Hehe…
When your companion, or a friend, asks you in the morning,
“Did you sleep well?” you either say yes or no.
If you say no, it meant that you were not sleeping.
But if you say yes, it means that you slept well.
Do you ever answer the question “Did you sleep well?” with the answer “I don’t know”? Does anyone here ever answer “I don’t know” when they were asked “How did you sleep?”? No. You answer either yes or no.
So you must have some… It’s a non-objective memory… There is some residue of what you experienced during deep sleep, remains over in the waking state.
Now. You’re quite right; it’s not a memory of something that took place at a certain time which is now no longer taking place. Because all that was present in deep sleep, was the presence of awareness. And awareness having no objective qualities, cannot be remembered.
However, the awareness that is present in deep sleep –that awareness that is present all alone in deep sleep– is the same awareness that is present in the morning when your companion asks you the question. “Did you sleep well?” So although the mind thinks that it refers to a period of deep sleep when it answers yes, what the mind actually refers to, is the presence of awareness that is present now. So the mind that answers yes, is a mind that is still transparent to the presence of awareness; the activities of the day have not yet risen sufficiently to obscure the presence of awareness.
So that is why, when we wake in the morning, if we have slept deeply, we still feel bathed with the peace of deep sleep. That peace is not a memory of something that happened three hours ago; it is our current experience of the peace of awareness shining through our still transparent mind.
What I compare to, is –in my own practice; I have a long-term sitting practice– in my practice it has become sort of the eradication of all form of sensation, thought and so on, and wonderful things arise out of that, but, I know that when I’m in… And it’s not really an experience per se, because all you’re doing is resting in your essential awareness, resting in your essential being and that’s the best I can do to describe it.
However, qualitatively, what the experience of that… you know, extreme stillness, and resting in that native awareness, is different from what I experience –or don’t experience– in deep sleep. And it’s just a curiosity to me, hahaha.
But any differences that you describe, are not differences in the state of awareness. They are differences in the fluctuations of your mind. So if you were to say that deep sleep is different from deep meditation, which is different from the waking state, what you are describing is the state of your mind, not the nature of awareness. Awareness is always in the same condition.
It’s like… It’s like your… Imagine your computer screen. There’s the screen, there’s your blank screensaver, and then there’s your email programme, and your iphotos, and… If you look at the iphotos, your emails, your screensaver and the screen, you’ll say these are four different states. But if, whenever the iphoto or the email or the screensaver is present, you actually go up to them, come close to them, touch them, you always find the same reality there, relatively speaking; you always find the same screen. The screen doesn’t share the limited qualities of the email, the photos, the screensaver.
So what you are describing, are the differences between the photos, the emails and the screensaver. There are differences between photos, emails and the screensaver. But there’s never a difference in the screen.
And it is not necessary to shut down all the programmes on your computer in order to recognize the nature of the screen. Because the nature of the screen is equally present during the presence of photos and emails, as it is in their absence.
Likewise, awareness is equally present during this experience, as it is during a deep depression, a moment of ecstasy, a dream of a Carribean beach, or deep sleep.
So it is not necessary to annihilate your sensations to bring your thoughts to an end, to change your perceptions. All that is necessary is, at any moment of experience, to go closely up to your experience and touch the stuff it is made of. If you do that, if you go deeply enough into experience, whatever the experience –and for this purpose a deep depression is as good as a moment of ecstasy– you will always find at its heart its reality. Inherently peaceful, unconditionally fulfilled awareness.
[Pointing indecisively at different directions in the audience]
Have you got a question? OK, sorry…
[simultaneously the next questioner goes “Sorry” too, for some reason. Both Rupert and this woman laugh.]
Ahm… OK. Ahm… [sighs] It’s a very personal q… (not a “personal”; what is “personal”?…), but I’ve noticed over the past few years that the more I become aware of the dynamics of my mind, or, ahm… let’s put it like that: The more this awareness of becoming aware of the dynamics of the mind, the more there’s this experience of suffering. But I’ve also noticed that, you know, I initially started this path many many years ago, in order to become, you know, liberated from the experience of suffering. So now even though I know whenever suffering is arising, it’s a thought that is arising and then you have the emotions surround it, I’m wondering, there’s a deep sense of… of sadness, and all the identification that I’ve… that were so solid, are… are… are not solid… are fluid, and are not permanent, and are not substantial. So it is… I’m feeling I’m stuck, and I also feel like all, you know, what I’ve studied, ahm… it doesn’t take me further; or back; or somewhere. So I’m wondering if you have any advice…
You started your question with a statement, something like “The more I am aware of the dynamics of my mind, the more I suffer”. Something like that.
Tell us about that which is aware of the dynamics of your mind.
You referred to it as “I”, so it’s another way of saying: Tell us about yourself.
I mean… there is only… –oh God, I come from a very intellectual…– but there’s only the “I” when there is the thought… There is often, you know…
No. I… Sorry to interrupt. I don’t mean… I don’t mean the “I”… the separate “I”, the separate self, that as you’ve understood is made out of thoughts. You said, “The more I am aware of the dynamics of my mind”, and then you rephrased it, “The more there is awareness of the dynamics of my mind”. So let’s take… –do you have a Buddhist background?–
OK. Let’s take “I” out of the equation, because Buddhists don’t like the word “I”, understandably. I use the word “I” in a different way, but if you have a Buddhist background, let’s take this obstacle out of the equation.
You said, “The more there is awareness of the dynamics of my mind, the more suffering there is”. So tell us about the awareness that is aware of the dynamics of your mind.
It’s really hard for me to sink into it and not go into the… into the intellectual part of…
No. But… but that’s very good. I asked you the question not because I want the verbal answer, but because I want you to go there. If I were to ask you, “Tell us about the sensation at the soles of your feet”, before you tell us anything about it, you would have to go there, with your attention.
So when I ask you, “Tell us about the awareness that is aware of the dynamics of your mind”, I want you to go there. I don’t really want you to describe it. So I like your silent answer.
Because that silent answer is the answer to your question.
But there’s still a lot of suffering.
Tell us about whatever it is that is aware of it.
So even knowing that, and even maybe having a glimpse into that, and even having an inspired experience of that…
No. But you are not someone who can have a glimpse or experience of that.
There is no “you” apart from awareness that can have a glimpse of awareness.
You ARE awareness.
You mean, even understanding that…
When you… When you… It’s like…
Visualize awareness as a self-aware screen;
not like a TV screen that is being watched by somebody sitting on the sofa,
but this is a magical TV screen that has the ability to watch the movie that is playing on it. So, experience is like a movie playing on the screen of awareness, made of the screen of awareness, and just as the movie could be said to be the activity of the screen, so all of experience –that’s all thinking, sensing and perceiving– is the activity of awareness.
Now. Awareness loses itself in its own activity, and thus seems to veil itself from itself with its own activity. The essence of meditation, or the essence of prayer,
is this return of awareness to itself. Awareness cannot be known by anything other than itself. It is “I”, awareness, that knows that I am aware. And the screen of awareness does not share the limits of any of the objects that seem to appear upon it or within it.
So if you want relief from your suffering, if you look for relief from your suffering in the objects of experience –activities… states of mind… relationships… non-dual teachings… non-dual teachers…– however fine the objects of experience in which you seek relief may be, you will always be disappointed.
If you want relief from your suffering, you will have to go back, deeply into yourself, to find that place that is inherently free of suffering.
It’s true that through force of habit, the old activities of thinking and feeling may come back very swiftly and eclipse awareness’s knowledge of itself, and in that sense you may say, “I only get brief glimpses of it”; what you’re really saying is “I, awareness, only get brief glimpses of myself before I lose myself again in my own creativity”.
So that’s fine; if you lose yourself again –in thinking, feeling, acting, relating– just come back to yourself. Just touch yourself again and taste yourself; come back to yourself. Then, through force of habit, you lose yourself in experience again, you just come back to yourself. And every time you come back to yourself, you erase the old habit of losing yourself in experience. The old habit will continue to arise –for some time, because we have all been rehearsing it for decades– but every time we come back to ourselves, we erode that habit. And we find that it takes us less and less time to return to ourselves, and in time fewer and fewer experiences have the capacity to take us away from our self.
This is why when Atmananda Krishna Menon was asked,
“What are the best circumstances for spiritual practice?”,
“The police force or the military”. [Low laughter in the audience]
What he meant was:
If you put yourself in extremely intense circumstances, and in those circumstances you are still able to trace your way back to your essential, inherently peaceful self, and stand there, rest there, be that, whilst still responding to your circumstances; if you can make it in those circumstances, you will be able to make it anywhere.
So, that is obviously an intense sadhana, and most of us retreat; it’s not retreat, but a retreat setting, such as this, provided because they are, relatively speaking, benign and peaceful circumstances, so we are not having to struggle with our experience; it is relatively easy to go back to our self.
But then when we take this understanding out into the world again, into our activities, relationships et cetera, then the temptation to lose ourselves again in experience becomes higher and higher.
But the more we go back to ourselves, the more we find that fewer and fewer experiences have this capacity to take us away from our self. In other words, we begin to become established in the peace of our true nature.
Rupert Spira transcribed by Leon Hieros