by delight identity design

The Life of ‘I’ – Part 2

Part 2 -The Life ‘You’ Think ‘You’ are Living  

All of us have questions and non-questions inside of us.  We have this sense of ourselves that we give meaning.  We all have our own experiences and our own meanings of these experiences. No matter what I experienced there was always a sense of a hunger, a thirst for something.

Sometimes I paid attention to this and sometimes I ignored it, there were obviously more entertaining thoughts to spend my time with.  But this hunger always came back.  At some level we all have a hunger, a need for something.  The words and meanings will change according to each persons mind, but the fundamental idea is still there.  It is because of this internal need or hunger that I eventually filled my life with things I considered beautiful and nice. I found it in clothes, cars, foods, friends, jewelry, drinks, parties, gym, drugs and sex and whatever else.  And this goes on and on…it was all about next weekend’s party or tomorrows drink after work, or going to dinner with that someone tonight or some show somewhere.  And well… I asked myself, what now?  In western society we are rather ‘lucky’ because there are so many things we can fill or physical and mental space with.  I earned a nice salary, it could be better but it was ok.  So I could spoil myself today by eating out or buying that jacket I saw in the store window.  And then tomorrow…. But somehow it felt like this hunger never seemed to be satisfied.  Why? Have you ever objectively wondered about it?

I came to realize that it was this constant search for happiness or what I thought happiness consisted of (or the experiences that I equate to happiness – no matter where or in what it is found).  Deep down I was seeking the ultimate experience.  Thinking that will be it, when I have this, ahh then…’ that will be the total happiness or the lack thereof, it will be everlasting, then I will know, and in this knowing I will spend the rest of my days.  But this sense of just knowing never comes, does it!

This ‘problem of life’ has been pondered over since the beginning.  It has been given different labels and different meanings.  We create the world we live in and then we create the idea of the world in it.  But there have been people who have come to understand a solution to this ‘problem’.  It takes some serious thinking to see the problem as it is.  Most people do not want to take that journey because it means that they have to let go of the things they think make them who they are (family, personality, country, language, belongings etc).  Some people however do spend the time to think about it.  Many come to see the problem and stop right there, thinking that you cannot escape this problem.  They then sit down, accept this problem for what it is and continue living their live with some sense of peace.  In both cases there is some form of mental resolution.

My mental resolution came from first having everything I thought I wanted, and then not wanting everything I thought I wanted.  Many people spend their lives looking for everything they want, buying it, getting it, sharing it, taking it etc.  Due to the nature of our world and the infinite things you can have most people spend their entire lives getting these things (physical, spiritual and mental).

Occasionally people renounce all these things or some of them in search for something else.

This is what I did.  Eventually one day I sat down in one place, surrounded with very few things and started thinking…

Life consists out of experiences and the meaning we attach to them.  The idea ‘life’ itself consists out of experiences and meanings we attach to it.  Fundamentally life consists out of many different things and these are all mentally tied together by the idea of ‘me’, ‘I’ in each experience.

So how do we experience life?  Through our senses, correct?  Mouth (taste), body (skin – feel), eyes (see), nose (smell), ears (hear) and mind (thought).  Lets look at these 6 inputs.  Before we can call something an experience a certain number of events (physically and mentally) have to take place.

For example a sense (mouth) + contact (sensation) = a feeling that we are consciousness of the process = thought of the consciousness of the process = ideas of the consciousness of the experience = the emotions of the experiences.

 

The thing/non-thing we refer to as the mind is the consciousness that arises from the brains processes.  Even the highest level of thought, study and contemplation cannot describe consciousness in itself because it is out of consciousness that the ability to describe is born.

To look at ‘consciousness’ through ideas, it can be considered merely a part of nature or an element found in existence.  To try and understand consciousness with ideas we assume that the human body has an operating system of some kind and this has given rise to the idea that ‘I’ exist.

This idea initially got my head tied in knot because we are continuously in and out of our experiences it is difficult to try and comprehend the actual idea of experiences.  The idea of the existence of a self is so fundamental to our nature that the idea of self-and-non-self cannot be understood by thought alone.

This is an approach to the idea:

This idea of the existence of self is fundamentally flawed because there is no continuous ‘self’ that exists.  “Living in the present moment” is a more recent idea we have added to our vast collection.  And even though it is limited by the meaning we have attached to it, it can be said that the present moment is the only thing that really exists.  The present moment does not exist in a mental or physical world.  When you are not in the present moment you are living in a mentally constructed world usually the past or the future or wherever.  And if you are not living in the mentally constructed world you are living in a physical one.  Both of these do exist, but not in the way you think they do.  So what literally does actually exists?  Present moment + present moment + present moment + present moment… and so it goes on.  Throughout our lives we use our sense inputs to construct our ‘life’.  Because we are continuously ‘experiencing and not-experiencing it would appear that this construction is happening all the time, like lighting it goes from one contact to the next, without us really being aware of it. Due to the nature of the mind we are not aware of this construction, just like we are not consciously aware of our internal bodily functions.  Even if we can create concepts around our bodily function to understand them we can never experience it like we ‘experience’ our experiences.

In other words every moment consists of:

A sense (mouth) + contact (sensation) = a feeling that we are consciously aware of the process.

Each moment is void of thought, ideas and emotions.

It takes some time to understand this idea.  Through understanding and physical practice you will see this idea, and once you can do that, then the mind is free to look at things as they are.

My most cherished ‘possessions’ were my emotions, my experience, and the way I felt and the way I thought.  So firstly I had to come to an understanding regarding my feelings and emotions.  I made a distinction as follows.  For every sense + contact there was a feeling (just a feeling without the emotions) that followed.  To avoid confusion I started to mentally refer to this feeling as sensation.  So there was a sensation, and then the awareness of that sensation created a feeling.  For example when I hold this book there is a sensation on my skin – Full stop – that is the nature of the sense input.  I am aware of this sensation and therefore I am conscious – full stop.  Anything else beyond the mere sensation and awareness of it is a mental construct and does not physically exist as part of the sense – for example if the book feels heavy or the texture is smooth.

For example a sense (mouth) + contact (sensation) = a feeling that we are consciousness of the process = thought of the consciousness of the process = ideas of the consciousness of the experience = the emotions of the experiences.

Consciousness (this ability, this nature of senses) recognizes sensations and files them.  At the foundation there are only three primary emotions:  happy (good) or unhappy (bad) or indifferent (neutral).  In the beginning it was challenging to see all these wonderful emotions and ideas of emotions on such a ‘basic’ level.  Pay attention because we have come up with such a vast number of classifications for emotions that the mind does not want to see it like this.

And it is at this point where we enter the dimensionless dimension of thought.  At this point we no longer see the natural process of it, we cannot because now we see only a world of ideas and concepts wrapped in meaning and filed in cabinets of infinity.  Initially I looked at everything around me, everything has a name, everything has a meaning.  This is the world.  It is here where a body + 6 sense inputs creates a world for itself.  It is in this world where ‘happy’, ‘good’, ‘bad’ things exist.

You can call this process, this world, whatever you like, according to the physical location you were born or according to the traditions you were brought up with.  It is in this world, and only in this world where problems and non-problems exist.  No matter what it seeks or seeks to avoid it can never be fulfilled or come to and end (the good and the bad).  So even though you might have all the money you ever wanted, a gorgeous girlfriend or boyfriend, a beautiful home and the car of your dreams you are still, every moment of every day, every week, every month, every year literally spending each moment seeking these ideas of pleasure / happiness / good sensations (or not good).  You might also have nothing, no money, no food, a small little shack in the middle of nowhere, no family or friend but you are still searching for that happy feeling (or not happy).  Why?  Because you are searching for an idea you believe holds this idea of a feeling.

Let me explain a little more in detail.  ‘You’ have a nice car, good home, great boyfriend today in your ‘life’ which you = to good things, that make you happy.  And yet in a few moments you might get up to go an get a snack to eat – now it is a function of the body to seek food so that the body-mind can survive – so your stomach might be growling or you might just want a snack because it gives you a good feeling – it doesn’t really matter how you see it at this stage – the point is that even though ‘you’ have all the these things ‘you’ = to happiness, you still seek more.  And there is nothing wrong with that, it is just the nature of the mind, how it is made to function, to seek that which produces the good feeling (or the idea of it).  So you get your snack, lets say it is some nuts, and you open the packet [as you are doing this concentrate only on the packet (clear your mind of any thoughts) and become present with the ‘experience’ of opening the packet, tearing or folding it open, each moment by moment.  So now the packet is open and you take a nut (sensation + sensation + sensation + …) and you put it in your mouth, taste, it produces a good feeling, and it slides down your throat, and as the food disappears so does the taste, and with it the feeling, so you have this idea in your head that it is good, and you take another one, and another and another (contact + feeling = consciousness).  So eventually you are no longer just ‘eating a nut’ you are eating the idea of the idea of the idea of some form of energy.

As you are doing this forget about all the attachments / meanings you associate with eating, nuts, food, snacks etc.  As you will see later it is completely irrelevant.  Just observe your own experience of eating nuts.  Notice that this experience is actually made up of billions of thoughts.  These thoughts are moments of sense inputs.  It all started with a sensation in your hands or mouth, the feeling of being consciousness of it, and in a split second “you are eating mixed walnuts” that… (the description of the experience is endless).  So this world is eventually based on desires, emotions and the attachment (belief) in these emotions.

This reality is so subtle that you will initially skip over its significance.  Firstly I had to realize that that these desires are there for good /not-good and bad /not-bad.  For example you bump your tow, and you move your foot away, avoiding the pain and thus you are seeing the good (no pain) feeling again.  Look at everything, it is all around you, it is this world.  So you get sick, and take some medicine to ‘reduce the symptoms’ or ‘heal’.  But what you are actually doing is seeking the good feeling (healthy or no headache for example) and avoiding the pain (not good) feeling of being sick.  Spend some time thinking about this because the mind has thousands of different meanings around being sick that have been constructed over the years, take your experience down to the fundamental process.

I spent many hours trying to concentrate to see this process, trying to be present to see it.  But it was rather hopeless.  I literally had to force ‘myself’ to sit still in one place.  When you sit completely still in one place you are faced with several ‘problems’.

The most immediate ‘problem’ is pain, or the thought of pain.  This is closely followed by more thoughts of the pain or other things.  The concept sounds easy enough but the actual experience can seem impossible to endure.

Find a comfortable position to sit in.  Then watch your mind.  Watch the part of you that you think is you, this ‘thing’ that thinks, feels and tastes.  See all the thoughts that are coming and going, and coming an going.  No matter how significant do not spend time on any of these, just watch them come and go, if you hold onto an idea for a moment, just acknowledge it and then let it go.  Focus your mind on nothing.  No thoughts, no concentration.  Even hold your breath if you want to.  You will know you are in the present moment when there are no thoughts in the mind.  This could take some practice.  I eventually started ignoring the thoughts, focused on anything but the thoughts.  It works well to focus on your breath.

When you are in the still present moment, start to notice everything, just focus, no emotion, no feelings, no thoughts, just a natural stillness.  Then start to notice how everything changes, how everything comes and goes, how nothing in the world, in nature actually stands still, how nothing is continuous, how it changes moment by moment.

Since I am more visually inclined it helped me to visualize the idea of the experience.  I saw 3 independent things: on my right I saw the mind, as an element, almost like a bundle of thoughts and images clinging to each other, constantly moving and changing.  And on my left I saw a skeleton with muscle and skin that is composed of the sense inputs (mouth, ears, nose, skin, eyes, and a brain).

Sitting there and holding these two things, completely disassociated with ‘me’ I was still somehow aware of something.  It was a sense of being.  There wasn’t much going on but there was something.  This is the natural state of consciousness.  This sense is always there, no matter what you are doing, thinking, eating, saying or being.

It is this sense of something that we believe is ‘I’,= personality = name = characteristics of.  When you observe any ‘experience’ try and observe it as an outsider, see how body (navigated by the mind) takes food, inserts it into the mouth, mind registers it and a good sensation (or a bad one or a neutral one), and the body chews, and swallows, and it disappears down the throat… and it starts again… thousands of inputs put together.

When you take these thousands of inputs and you multiply them with the thousands of inputs on previous input memory data then you end up with thoughts like “chocolate tastes good”.  So tomorrow you might suddenly want some chocolate.  But that ‘wanting chocolate’ is literally a memory of a sense input + thoughts about the sense input.  That is why I literally started filling my world (mentally and physically) with that which made me experience good thoughts.  Of course there is nothing actually ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ about this, it is just the nature of sense inputs and consciousness.

One day I realized, while eating, that I never ‘just knew’ when I had eated enough.  It was always something I had to think about, and usually the answer was no because what I was eating was a ‘good experience’.     Consciousness evolves over time according to the inputs.  So by this time eating had so many connotations and meanings around it based on all the experiences and ideas I associated with the activity of consuming energy.

And consciousness moves so incredibly fast that I could not even notice the thoughts.  I did not recognize the desire for the good stuff in everything I did.  I thought that was just the way it was.  And this goes for everything from movies, TV, drugs, exercise, being in nature, doing good, drinking water etc.

Human consciousness has evolved to such an extent that many people have come to notice the ‘peace’ they find in quiet, void, nothingness moments.  Where the mind finds a resting place.  Where the mind can slow down.  This is temporary relief, just like everything else.

I eventually attached to this peaceful experience of nothingness by trying to ‘experience’ it everywhere and at any time.  But no matter how much effort I put into it, I soon found myself experiencing my world of thought and emotions again.  I tried to reason, I tried to discipline myself, afterwards talking to myself, thinking about the experience etc.

The first insight came in the resolution of one my biggest obstacles in life.  Nobody else was really aware of it, because most of it took place in my head when I was alone.  My [this body – mind] life [collection of moments] was filled with fear, and therefore I spent so many moments trying to avoid it.  I was physically scared of anything unknown.  Like being in a forest alone in the dark, the idea of not knowing who I was, the idea of loosing my mind, the idea of maybe there is a god, or not.  All of these ideas had this fear meaning attached to it.  And because it had this meaning attached to it, I automatically experienced it as such.  It was not until I could mentally separate mind and body from what I thought was ‘me’ that fear did not exist because there was no ‘me’ to hold onto the thoughts of fear.

I led what I considered a happy life.  I had convinced myself that everything was ‘good’ even the ‘bad’ stuff, because it all depended on perceptions right.  And my mind was rather calm, but I could never sit still, in one place, in one job, in one country, always looking for more.  There were goals to achieve even if they were not goals, I had a purpose, there was some meaning to living, there had to be.

Everything I experienced was experienced through thoughts.  When someone said something or I had done something I had to physically tell myself ‘it is OK’ (the 3 most useful words you can ever say to yourself), ‘it doesn’t really matter’, ‘it’s all good’, ‘there is always a positive intention’, ‘let it go’, constantly having to train this mind to be calm and peaceful.  Only because I had decided that a life lived peacefully was the life I wanted to live.  No matter what type of life you choose or not-choose it takes mental effort to live.

The last few years I spent allot of time contemplating my life, throwing around meanings, ideas, concepts and thoughts.  I changed this and I changed that.  It was and experience of sitting at the edge of a cliff.  On the one side was the world I thought I knew but did not feel a part of, and on the other side it was just a black unknown.

So if you have this feeling that there is something else, hold onto that idea, think about it allot, think about it until it lets go. It might feel strange to think about it and you will come to explore the depths of the dimensions of the consciousness we have defined for ourselves.  This is no spiritual hocus pocus, no magic, it is just looking at how it is, personal insight, realization, seeing it for what it is.

1 Comment
  1. Nathalie
    Nathalie08-09-2011

    Thank you Merlyn 🙂

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