Who are you protecting when you protect your friend?

161Imagine that you are in a garden party held by one of your friends. As you are walking along by a group of people, you cannot help but overhear their conversation as they are making fun of somebody else who is not there. You walk on, but suddenly you realise that the person they are talking about is your best friend, Pete. Thoughts come up: ‘Wait a minute. They are making fun of Pete. They shouldn’t talk like this. Pete is a very good guy. I have to do something. I have to protect him.’ The body becomes tense, and you feel frustrated. You turn around, hasten your steps back to them to pick up a fight to protect your best friend.

What do you think who are you protecting? Are you really protecting Pete or just protecting the concept of Pete in ‘your head’?

During the ten-year friendship, an intricately detailed mental concept of Pete has been built up in your brain. This concept is compounded of a mental image of his body, his name Pete, the sound of his voice, his habitual reactions to certain circumstances, his likes and dislikes, the stories he frequently tells, and all the good and bad memories of times you spent together.

But this mental image is not him. This construct ‘lives’ only in your mind. Actually, there is a huge web of conditioned neuronal networks in the brain that creates and re-creates this image of Pete every time you have a thought of him.

This mental image of Pete serves a seemingly quite important job; to be a building block of ‘you’. This concept of Pete is a small segment of ‘your self’. The illusion of ‘I’ lives in almost every concept and all beliefs. The ‘I’ is assembled from these small fragments. When a part of it is seen through, then the identification with that part is no longer total. A segment of ‘you’ is dissolved.

So, who do ‘you’ protect when protecting ‘your’ friend?

‘You’ are protecting ‘your-self.
The separate self that does not exist other than an idea.
You protect an illusion of you being an independent autonomous entity.
You protect an idea of who you think you are.

Being lost in the story of my life

043.1How many hours a day do you spend in storyland? Can you notice thoughts coming and going, or you are just tossed around in the endless ocean of thoughts from one story to the other? In our everyday lives most of us do not recognize thoughts for what they are, just thoughts floating by, but rather spend most of our lives being zoomed into the contents of thoughts, taking them for granted.

Let’s have a look at an everyday scenario. On a sunny afternoon, after work, driving home on the motorway, the focus is mainly on the internal movie about what happened in the meeting earlier that day, instead of noticing what is happening here now. ‘My boss was so unfair with me. He shouldn’t have said that. I’m so pissed off…’ – and the story goes on. Tension and contraction arise in the body due to anger and resentment. Suddenly, a sense of hunger shows up, which triggers another story, a story about being at home eating my favourite pizza. Then, unexpectedly, a driver cuts me off, almost causing an accident, which sets off a new stream of story with images of being in hospital due to severe injuries.

In the meantime, I arrive home, unharmed, but the I hardly remember how I got there because I was mesmerized by the endless dream of thoughts.

And this is how most of us live, almost constantly falling in and out from one story to another hundred or thousand times a day; hardly noticing the blooming trees on the side of the road, the warmth of the sun on the skin, the whispering of the wind and the pleasant tingling sensations in the hands. All this is missed for only one reason: to keep the illusion of the self alive.

But the ‘I’ lives only in stories.
Without story there is no ‘me’.
If the stream of stories stops just for a second, the ‘me’ vanishes.
When there is no ‘me’ then there is peace.

Driving happens, seeing happens, steering the wheel happens but nobody is doing it.

It is not even necessary for the story to stop; it is enough to see the story for what it is, a stream of thoughts passing by.

‘Me’ is just another thought.
‘Me’ is nothing, an empty word.
‘Me’ does not refer to anything.

Thoughts are not facts

051The human brain produces more than 70,000 thoughts a day. Most of these thoughts are repetitive, meaning that most of them are the same thoughts that ‘we’ have had for decades.

There is a tendency to believe that thoughts are accurate descriptions of reality; however, this could not be further from the truth. A thought is just a label on what IS, never the thing itself. The experience is gone in the moment when thoughts come in interpreting the experience. Thought construct has replaced (seemingly) what IS, and the experience has been reduced to a fleeting, elusive thought.

Thoughts can be artificially divided into two categories: practical or problem solving thoughts and self referencing thoughts. Not surprisingly, most of our thoughts are self referencing thoughts where all our apparent troubles originate from, and all these selfing thoughts revolve around one single thought of ‘I’.

After seeing that there is no separate self in reality, Descartes’ most famous existential statement ‘I think, therefore I am’ can be viewed from a different angle.

The ‘me’ exists only in story-land, as part of appearing and disappearing stream of thoughts. The ‘I’ exist only as a concept in thought. If this thought is taken to be real, the illusion of a ‘separate I’ emerges with the belief of it being the thinker of thoughts, with the conclusion that ‘I think, therefore I am’.

But can a thought think?
Can a thought exist as a solid entity in space and time?
Is thinking a proof of the existence of ‘me’?

Thinking happens, just as raining happens.
‘I am thinking’ is just another thought appearing on its own, without a thinker.

You are not who you think you are.

Because the ‘I’, as a separate independent autonomous entity is nothing else than the figment of imagination.

What is the meaning of life?

This is an all-time favourite question; does life have a meaning?

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But what is the ‘I’ that wants to know the meaning of life? What wants meaning? Why is there a need to assign any meaning or purpose to life? Why not accept life as it is without putting any interpretation, intention or meaning on it?

Have you ever entertained the possibility that life does not have a meaning?

What comes up, how do you feel or react when you read these lines? Is there resistance? Do you want life to have a meaning?

What is this ‘I’ that doesn’t like to hear this?

The ‘I’ desperately wants to find or assign meaning to life because for the ‘I’ life is equal to ‘me’. It says: “I have a life and I want to have a meaning and purpose of my life”. But without life having any meaning ‘my life’ does not have a meaning either. I am nothing.

This is the last thing the ‘egoic mind’ would like to hear because it could lead to the conclusion of its annihilation.

But is there a self in the first place that could own life?

While the ‘I’ try to find or assign meaning to life, the veil of dreamland – made of mental constructs – is taken for granted without seeing the simplicity of what actually IS. Life is happening right here, right now and nobody is living it.

Searching for meaning is just a form of seeking.

The ‘mind’ always wants to put meaning on everything.
The ‘mind’ is a labelling machine.
Meaning is just a mental label on what IS.

Life is living itself without any purpose or meaning. Life is as it IS.

And sometimes life shows up as a search for meaning. But that search is already life itself pretending to be a small segment of the whole, a small me in a big world, in a quest to find purpose and meaning to its existence.

But what if the way out of this search is to realize that nothing has been lost, there is nothing to find, no meaning is needed, since everything is already life pretending to be many?

Waking up from the dream

After seeing that there is no ‘I’ to be found, the story of ‘my’ life could still arise. There is no way to ‘step out’ of the movie itself, since the one who could step out is just a fiction. But it can be seen that the movie is just an aspect of life, how wholeness shows up in a given moment.

007.1When this is clearly seen the thoughts and the story itself lose their mesmerisation, their stickiness. In the play of life, the appearance of the character still arise but without being taken too seriously. The character is seen for what it is… just another thought which seems to claim ownership of other thoughts.

And yet, wide range of emotions could still arise, like sadness, pain, happiness or satisfaction, but without an owner who would claim to be sad, happy or satisfied. Emotions come and go, free freely floating, without being anchored to anything or anyone.

However, when the ‘story of me’ is taken for granted, when it is not seen for what it is, simply thoughts floating by, the ‘I’ seems to exist as an enduring, real, living entity with volition and autonomy, who moves through time and space from a defined beginning, called birth, to an unforeseeable end, death.

But in reality, if you pay close attention to thoughts, not by thinking but by looking, you could discover that the character, the ‘I’, is born and dies with each and every thought in each and every moment.

Dream of life – as a 3D movie (part 2)

020If we view our lives as a movie projected onto the screen which could be watched from the distance, like watching a movie in a cinema, then there is an implied subject-object split. I, the watcher being the subject, who is observing the object, the movie of ‘my life’.

When this happens, there is another layer of identification with the notion of a separate self, hidden under the cloak of a witness, who is observing the happenings of  ‘my life’. In this way, the belief in a separate self hasn’t fallen yet, rather it just moved to a subtle form of identification, becoming an apparent witness.

To dissolve this confusion, Nathan Gill suggested a bit different movie analogy.

“…it is a multi-dimensional movie, being viewed from within the movie, not being viewed by a viewer from outside.”

“There is nothing outside of the movie. There is only the movie and the present registering of it from ‘within’ the movie.”

Nathan Gill: Already Awake (p. 58)

In this three-dimensional movie, when the thoughts are seen for what they are instead of being lost in their contents, the identification with the character is noticed ‘within’ the movie. All the problems and happenings can be watched, but they are no longer ‘my’ problems. They just appear and disappear as the part of the flow of life. There is no ‘I’ to stick to. Even if the thoughts of ‘my problems’ appear, sooner or later noticing happens, and the ‘me’ disappears from the nothingness where it came from.

There is no ‘me’ at all, not even as an observer, who could step out of the story and watch it from the outside. Watching just happens. And nobody does it.

Dream state – like a movie (part 1)

019The dream state is often described by the movie analogy. Imagine that you are sitting in a cinema and watching a very exciting movie. You are so immersed in the story that you even forget that you are in a cinema. It is so entrancing that you totally forget about yourself and ‘become’ the character on the screen. You can be so identified with the character that it could feel as if you were the hero in the movie. Emotional responses arise in your body (which is sitting in the cinema but you totally forget about it) when the loved one in the movie dies or when the whole universe is saved by ‘you’. This is a dream. A fiction. But you believe it into ‘reality’. At least it becomes ‘your reality’ until you wake up from this mesmerisation when the guy behind you sneezes. But soon, you fall back into believing to be the saviour of the world.

It can be assumed that dreaming is over when the film ends. You leave the cinema and the reality of everyday life is back again. Isn’t it? Or, you just have fallen into another dimension of ‘reality’, dreaming your life story into ‘existence’?

Awakening from the dream is about realising that there is a fictional story, called ‘my life’, with a fictional character ‘me’, projected onto the ‘inner movie screen’, with other characters coming and going and affecting the me-character, whom the story is supposedly happening to.

Questions may arise…
Is this story of ‘my’ life real?
What is behind the story?
What are you without the story?
Is there an I without the story?

Seeking

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When we read reviews about new books, we often find those types of comments where the reader / seeker compares a writer’s previous book with the new one and concludes that this second one is not good enough, there isn’t anything new in it, it didn’t give anything to them. Quite often, the seeker finds another ‘spiritual teacher’ whose words can add a bit more to their ‘knowledge’ or beliefs about spirituality or how to achieve ‘enlightenment’ or certain states.

This seeking can be so strong that one could do nothing else than searching for more and more ‘knowledge’ or strategies. ‘This new type of meditation… maybe this is the one. Maybe this will give me what I’m searching for’.

But do you know exactly what you are seeking for?

What if the self is searching for itself? What if the ‘I’ desperately wants to find itself? Is it possible? Can a thought find itself? If not, what is searching and what is it searching for?

Fulfilment… can a thought be fulfilled?
Peace… can a thought be at peace?
Love… can a thought love or be loved?
Can a thought attain anything?

Is it really seeking something? Is there really a self that is searching? Or this whole seeking is just a cover up? What if seeking is just a cover story on  behalf on a fictional character, called ‘me’?…

…. in order to not finding out the truth… not seeing what IS and what is not.

Where is the self?

009Philosophers and psychologists have tried to define the nature of self for centuries and came up with hundreds of concepts, ideas and definitions about it. However, one theory can be in complete opposition to another and there is a constant criticism around the current definitions and concepts. But what if the answer cannot be found in concepts, definitions or theories?

Does a baby have a self or the self is is just a mental construct that is learnt in early childhood? If you can entertain the possibility that the self is not something that we are born with, then how could we end up believing that we have are a separate self, a separate entity, which is so fragile and vulnerable that needs constant protection from everything else which is defined as not the self?

What is the difference between you and a baby? Have you developed a self, a ‘me’ somewhere along the way of growing up from non-existence into existence? How?

My success, my failure, my children, my wife, my country, my life

What is this ‘I’ who has all of this? Where is it? You could say, here it is, this body. Are you sure about that? Then why do you say ‘my body’?

My self, my body, my mind, my soul… What is this ‘I’ that claims it has a self, a body, a mind, a soul? Where is this ‘I’? Could you show me you?