Friday, May 30, 2008

The Circle of Life - a brief overview

A few years ago, after I was diagnosed with epilepsy out of the blue, I began a search for answers. Within a few months it became clear that I was not going to find any clear cut answers regarding my diagnosis, but I felt driven to find out as much as I could about everything and anything. I consumed books on every imaginable subject from the brain to physics to religion to cosmology, etc. I eventually discovered what I had actually been searching for all along: Truth.

Over the past few years I have been sharing my experiences along the way with all of my friends and family in the hopes that my search would be contagious. After reading multiple books from multiple teachers, I have been lead to the point where all of the paths converge. This is my attempt to encapsulate all that I have learned.

The present moment is all there ever really is. Life is always unfolding right Now. The situations that arise are largely (if not completely) out of our control. It is not the situations that cause us pain, it is our thoughts about them. Events and situations can be blamed or resisted but it does not change the fact that they are here now. This is where acceptance comes into play. If you want to be truly happy in all that you do, the acceptance of what is is a crucial element. It’s profoundly simple actually. If you want to live a life of joy, simply love what is, in this moment.

Our beliefs are at the center of all of our negative emotions. When we encounter something that causes discomfort, we “believe” that what’s happening should not be happening. Beliefs are simply thought patterns we have picked up along the way that we use to judge the world around us. As I once read, if you think something is a fact rather than a belief, ask yourself if there is one person in the world who would disagree with that “fact”. If the answer is yes, then it is a belief and not a fact. When we believe things should be a certain way, we create the stage for disappointment and pain because things will not always fit in our belief system.

We are actually not who we think we are. We are so identified with our thoughts that we can’t see what lies underneath. What lies underneath is often referred to as awareness or consciousness. That is what we are. It is ever present but our thoughts cover up its existence. Our awareness is totally identified with our thoughts most of the time. Connecting with the awareness that we all are is true liberation from all pain and suffering, and we can connect with it anytime we so choose.

There are numerous ways to connect with who we truly are, but they all have a common thread. Though it can be described in a number of ways, these descriptions are simply pointers and not the absolute truth. Here are a few ways you can find your true identity:

Focus all of your attention on what you are doing Now. Give each activity, regardless of how insignificant, you fullest attention.

Focus your attention on your inner body. Feel what it feels like to feel your body. Become aware of that force that animates your body and how it feels to abide in this body.

Accept what occurs each moment without resistence. If the situation calls for you to take action your action will come from a space of acceptance and will be a much more effective response to any given situation. Realize that what is going on now is exactly what “should” be happening. The universe is giving us just what we need to grow even if it doesn’t seem like it on the surface.

Ask yourself, “Who am I?” Don’t look for an answer to the question. Simply focus your attention inward. Ask yourself repeatedly and “look” behind the question to see who it is that is asking the question. Who is it that is aware of the question being asked?

What all of the above practices have in common is that they stop the incessant stream of thoughts that pervade our everyday lives. It allows awareness to become aware of itself, and/or allows awareness space to act through us. This is a very powerful experience, but don’t create any preconceived notions about what it “should” be like. Don’t even do it with the intention of “getting” something out of it. These are the crafty thought patterns that can distract you from experiencing who you truly are. They allow you to judge the situation to see if you are doing it right.

One of the e-books I read recently (which is available for free at the link below) provides a clear understanding of the self inquiry method mentioned above. The book is called Meeting Ramana Maharshi by John Sherman. John is an ex-bank robber turned spiritual teacher and does an excellent job of putting Ramana’s teachings into perspective.

After reading it I began to practice focusing my awareness on the awareness that I am. It is simply a shift in perspective that is so obvious it gets overlooked, which is why it is often referred to as the cosmic joke. We’ve always been awareness and it’s been under our nose all along. So simple but so oddly difficult. My experience with turning my attention inward makes the world come alive. The colors and textures become much more vivid. Thought subsides and I am able to just Be. (See also my previous post on The Moving Sidewalk of Life) As John says, this inquiry is self realization and if you continue to practice it you will eventually no longer need to practice. It will become your normal state of being.

If you are interested in finding out who you truly are and freeing yourself from all forms of suffering, all it takes is your strong intention to do so and you will succeed. I highly recommend downloading the free e-book mentioned above and practicing turning your attention inward as often as possible. Incorporating daily meditation into your routine is extremely valuable regardless of how much time you take. Meditation can then become a part of your everyday life.

I wish you the very best in all that you do and am grateful that you took the time to read this. May it benefit you in some way. Wishing you eternal peace and love. After all, that’s what you already are even if you haven’t noticed yet :)