My practice is to remember and acknowledge ‘Tat Tvam Asi’. We are all here as expressions of the boundless.
Me and Mine
Spending time with those dedicated to exploring and expressing that which is beyond the Me and Mine, is a privilege afforded to few and, by extension, potentially beneficial to many. All of us are players in the Lila, and when she assigns us the role of the Seeker, we are blessed to be growing and inevitably sharing our growth. And we do so best not by speaking our truth (for it is not ‘ours’ to start with), but by thriving to be present with what arise in the moment in a conscious and clear expression of our true nature and engage with it as harmoniously as possible. Radically honest and fiercely committed to show up in our best spiritual garments – our naked soul.
I am fortunate enough to have spent a little time at the feet of few good teachers, and many days in the company of some marvellously deep-thinking friends. What I share is not of my own – I might have used my pen to write these words, but the sentences are but a synthesis of the treasures I was fortunate enough to read or listen to, and I am grateful to all the water sources I was, and still am, lucky enough to drink from. And in any case, any assumption of ownership is bound to humiliation of the presumed self. For to own something means the existence of that which is owned, and it is the perception of this duality which makes the Lila possible, and suffering imminent.
As many, it is suffering that drove me to search for what is real. Early on in life, as a young man, I was sent to the battlefield to protect what I believed to be the essence of nobility and righteousness. I was on the side of the ‘good ones’, while as it were, the ‘bad ones’ were out to destroy fairness and inflict pain. I did not see that we were all ignorant of a greater truth that does not wither with the fall of nation or resurrect with the rise of yet another civilization in the making. And that while we seemingly all are soldiers in a conflict, in actuality we all are servants of the same consciousness – projecting our imagined differences, desiring our illusionary domination, yearning for the approval of our peers.
It was the experience of killing and seeing friends killed, that brought about an intense sense of suffering and a strong disbelief in the dichotomy of ‘good’ vs ‘evil’. And though I was too young to decipher in a coherent thinking what I felt, to my horror I saw that regardless of the colour of their uniforms or their cultural affiliation, young dead men were all the same. It took many more years before I found a quote – supposedly uttered by one of the great sages – which captured what I felt: “I refuse to participate in the inner machinations of murder”. For killing – however robust the narrative that underpins its professed justice – is always a murder. Not just of the other, but also of our innermost truth – our universal identity, our interconnectedness, our predestined purpose to soar higher towards the Light.
And yet, it was that experience which sent me looking for a truth that is not subjected to time, place and a narrative. And for that I am eternally grateful.
My journey took me to many places and lead me to different teachers – and yet there was a sense of looking for a horizon which forever was just beyond the next retreat, or the newest book. It seemed that there was always another mountain to climb and another teacher to ask. All of which were graceful and illuminating and yet none of which felt like I was at the source. Like Zeno’s dichotomy paradox, I was continuously just halfway closer to the truth without ever seeing it. Because indeed, in dichotomy the illusion of separation is perpetuated, and duality is maintained.
Little I knew – when stumbling through earlier chapters of my search; searching for a true source of happiness that was not lover-inspired or object-dependent – that what I was looking for did not exists outside me. I believed that somewhere – elsewhere – there would be someone with the right answer. It took many years to discover the likes of Ramana Maharshi who beautifully summed up the search when he said “Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.”
Of course, I cannot say that I have arrived – and anyway how is it possible to arrive at a place one has never left… And I certainly do not claim to know something other than a love for life I nurtured on the journey, and gratitude for the journey I cultivated in this life. But for what it’s worth, here are the three most helpful pieces I found along the way.
Establishing a Practice
These are not shared as an absolute truth or even as guidelines towards insights. Rather, these are notions that I used – tentatively – to explore the human experience, and I should also mention they are really just a remix of wisdom expressed more eloquently by people much wiser than myself… If you find something there, note that as soon as they are helpful, they should also be discarded – for no words can truly describe the ground of Being. Just as a black hole cannot be seen and is discerned by the way the light bends around it, ideas and words are useful to bend as we get closer to the divine, but never shall they capture its divinity. Much more useful to see these as potentiated practices on the path. Once the practice is established properly, there should be no one left to care about what it means…
First – The notion that my experience triggers my reaction is the wrong way around. It is my attitude or projection that begets my attitude, and that attitude begets my experience. Nothing is inherently wrong in the sense that arguing with what is presenting itself is akin to trying to stop the wind with our hands.
Second – All that I am seemingly subjected to is only so until I recognise (through embracing the first practice) my own subjectivity, at which point it becomes an object, transcended and included within me. There is nothing out there that I cannot find a way to understand as a projection of my own limited self. I cannot have a relationship with reality; I can only have a relationship with the way I perceive (consciously or subconsciously) an experience as it arises in the present moment. What I find so beautiful in this practice is that whether this is actually and ‘truly’ meaningful, is almost irrelevant.
What is important is the agency I assume over my experience as a learning and growing feature of my potential dissolution.
Last – That in the space I can find between experience and response (through applying the second practice), there lies my freedom and my happiness: my character is a collection of habits, and my habits are the culmination of the choices I made (mostly unconscious) over time. By training to recognise that space, I can rewire (with diligent practice and over time) my habitual responses towards more conducive and less fearful engagement with the world around me.
In that sense, knowing what to do is actually quite easy, because when I look to recognise that space, by default I also see that regardless of the situation I am in or the story I tell myself about it, there is only ever one and same decision to make – either I can create more harmony, or inflict more separation; seek to heal or to push away; stir the pot or water the garden. No matter how different the narrative may seem, the choice is always between sustaining Duality or serving the Oneness. And in my commitment to the latter is also my freedom to choose that which is beyond ‘Me’ and ‘Mine’ – and in some small insignificant way, dissolve into the magnificent presence of No-thing-ness.
“Suffering is the result of ignorance… and ignorance in essence, is the belief in a truly existing self and in the solidity of phenomenon”Matthieu Ricard, The Monk and the Philosopher
Photo Credit: Rajiv Butalia