Serving a Self Which Isn't There
Unraveling the layers of feeling and belief which have kept us trapped in a separate self that doesn't actually exist.
How to get the most out of these Wisdom Quotes:
Put aside everything you think you already know.
Open your mind and heart to receive something new.
Take your time going through each point.
Return to any points that particularly touch you.
In the coming days, listen carefully to the wisdom within you.
1. Exposing Our Root Belief
"The emotion is obscuring the truth of it and that is why we take this rather scientific approach to our emotions. We don’t get emotional about our emotions. We are rather like scientists - we take our emotions into the lab, we put them under the microscope, turn up the microscope times a thousand, and we look at what is really there.
The only reason our emotions survive is because they survive in obscurity. Our emotions cannot stand the bright light of awareness.
The separate self, which is at the heart of all these emotions of fear, shame, and guilt, thrives on not being clearly seen. In these meetings and in our meditations, the separate self is being flushed out of its hiding places, flushed out of obscurity. And it fights a little bit. It doesn’t want to come out of obscurity because it knows that if it does, its days will be numbered.
Beliefs represent a self that is not present, they do not represent experience.
Your beliefs are all founded on a single belief: “I, consciousness, am temporary and finite.” That is the root belief upon which all your other beliefs and feelings are based. So, in this approach, we don’t really attend to those numerous other beliefs and feelings. We attend to their root, the belief that “I, consciousness, am temporary and finite.”
We just shine this bright, laser-like light on that belief and we explore it.
The separate self is the true and only self of pure awareness with numerous layers of limitation superimposed onto it. It is layers of feeling and belief that surround the true self of pure awareness, that make it seem to be temporary and finite.
So, there are these two contrasting approaches that both approach reality in two different ways. One is absolutely cutting and linear, and the other is very loving and spacious. I recommend you use both - this rigorous investigation of your beliefs and then this more open, contemplative, loving approach to the body.
I feel that both approaches are necessary. If it were just the clinical approach of reason, it would be too dry. We would arrive at the very familiar place that many of us have been at, often for many years: “I understand everything. I understand I am infinite consciousness and my thoughts, to a large extent, are aligned with that understanding, but I feel, act and relate on behalf of a finite self."
If we only explore these ideas rationally, this discrepancy between our thoughts and feelings would remain and we would feel, as a result, “Yes, I get it all, but I’m not happy. Something is missing.”
That is why this softer, open, more loving approach to the body is, I feel, absolutely necessary. But if we just did that, whilst our feelings may gradually be realigned, our beliefs would constantly play havoc with us and cause us to doubt the validity of what we have experienced at the level of feeling."
~Rupert Spira, from the video: Choosing Between Beliefs and Experience
Many of us know how healthy it is to question our beliefs and are open to doing so, but have you ever considered that all your beliefs and feelings are based on one single, root belief?
I, consciousness, am temporary and finite.
Are you open enough to explore this long-held belief? Rupert says that "it is layers of feeling and belief that surround the true self of pure awareness, that make it seem to be temporary and finite."
In the coming quotes, we will unravel these layers together and see the difference between who we think we are and who we truly are.
2. Facing Our Feelings
"The first thing we do is to turn away from objective experience - thoughts, images, feelings, emotions, sensations, the sight of this room, relationships and activities - we turn away from all objective experience, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant it is, and we turn in the other direction towards that with which objective experience is known - that which is aware of our experience.
The common name for that is, “I.” I am aware of my feelings. Now, I am aware of my feelings whether I am deeply depressed or ecstatically happy, the “I” is the same in both cases. So the “I” is not limited or qualified by either the depression or the ecstasy. It is independent of both.
That’s the first step we always take here, to establish what I am - the presence of awareness independent of all objective experience - until we stand as that One, until we know and feel ourself to be that One.
That is the recognition of who we essentially are, but that recognition alone is not enough to put an end to the layers of feelings and indeed of beliefs that have accumulated over the years.
Even after we have recognized or had a glimpse of our essential nature, it is still necessary to go back again and again, both to our beliefs and to our feelings.
Because we have been rehearsing our beliefs and feelings for decades, we have been repeating them over and over again until they have become a very well-worn habit. And that habit, both the habit of thinking and the habit of feeling is not eradicated the moment we recognize our true nature.
Having turned around and faced our essential self, it is necessary to turn back to objective experience and face our experience from the perspective of our newer understanding of our Self.
We don’t turn around and face our feelings as a separate self that likes this feeling, that doesn’t like this feeling, that wants to change this feeling, that wants to judge that feeling…
We turn around and face our feeling as awareness."
~Rupert Spira, from the video: Facing Our Feelings as Awareness
Perhaps all some of us have ever known is to face our feelings as a "separate self that likes this feeling, that doesn’t like this feeling, that wants to change this feeling, that wants to judge that feeling…" How energetically exhausting it is living in this way!
And yet, how would we know anything different if we see everyone around us doing the same thing, completely caught up in their own psychological drama of life?
So the first step we take is to turn our attention away from whatever we are focusing on - thoughts and feelings about a person, an object, a situation, etc. - and keep coming back to ourselves, recognizing where this experience is taking place.
I am aware of my feelings.
3. Recognizing Fake Acceptance
"As awareness, our feelings are completely welcome, just as everything that appears in the space of this room is welcome. The space in this room doesn’t have to negotiate with each person that comes in, "I like you, but I don’t like you."
The space cannot negotiate what takes place within it because it is empty, it is open. The space of this room cannot resist what takes place within it. Even if we were to start fighting with each other now or dancing, or whatever, the space would remain the same,
In that sense it is indifferent but it is not a cold indifference because it is also one with everything that takes place within it. It is a loving indifference, a benevolent indifference.
Imagine awareness like the space of this room but it’s a knowing space, an aware space.
So, now we invite our feelings to come back. Having turned away from them initially, in order to establish the presence and the nature of awareness, we now invite our feelings to come back, but we welcome them within us.
We let these feelings soak in the space of awareness in the same way that when you get into a bath on a cold night, you just surrender your body to the warm water.
We know when we’re fully allowing or accepting or welcoming our feelings, when we can say to the feeling, “I can live with you forever. You are welcome within me forever.”
That is a little test because what people often do when they hear this is that they welcome the feelings because they think, “Ah, this might finally get rid of them.” All our lives we have been trying to get rid of feelings, uncomfortable feelings, through substances, activities, relationships etc.
The separate self is very clever. It takes the non-dual teaching and applies it as yet one more way of getting rid of uncomfortable feelings. That’s fake welcoming - it’s welcoming something so that you can get rid of it.
This question, “Can I live with you forever?” when you say this to the feeling, you must be able to answer “Yes,” to that question because then you know that there’s no trace in you that wants to get rid of it.
And then look at what is a feeling for which you have absolutely no resistance. Next time you’re suffering put the story that accompanies the suffering on one side because we’re not dealing with ideas and beliefs, we’re dealing with the aspect of the feelings that is in your body, it’s a sensation in your body.
When you next find yourself suffering or with a sense of lack, don’t let your mind go into stories, just go to the feeling, the sensation of the lack.
It may take some time. You turn towards it and you invite it into yourself and you bring it closer and closer and closer until you can honestly say, “I have no resistance to this feeling.” And see what remains of the feeling if you do that."
~Rupert Spira, from the video: Facing Our Feelings as Awareness
Are you willing to put aside all concepts, stories and beliefs to follow along with Rupert's guidance here? Notice any fear which rises up at the thought of being willing to live with a feeling forever.
But there's no need to worry, for it is this real acceptance that transforms the feeling. All this time we thought we were being open and accepting, but our motive was to get rid of our uncomfortable feelings.
Now, in the presence of awareness, the fear and ulterior motive dissolve into true acceptance.
In fact, as a separate self, we are not capable of this kind of acceptance. It is only when we take our place as awareness that we find we already are this open space of loving indifference.
4. Being True Acceptance
"You become aware of the resistance, you then judge that resistance and you become aware of what is a resistance to your resistance, which is another layer of resistance. What is important not to do is to then try to change the second resistance into acceptance.
It’s a very subtle trick of the ego. The ego is made out of the first resistance, “I don’t like what is happening.” It then reinforces itself by saying, “I don’t like the fact that I don’t like what is happening.” By the ego I mean the separate self - it’s made out of these, what is now, two resistances.
Then, when it begins to feel that it is being found out, it thinks, “Okay, I better change this second resistance into an activity called acceptance - it’s a little bit more virtuous, it’s a little bit more spiritual. The separate self thereby subtly and in fact not so subtly once you’ve seen it, perpetuates itself. Resistance and acceptance are two ways in which the separate self perpetuates itself.
What we’re talking about is the openness that is the essential nature of awareness, our self. Its nature is to be open, empty. In that sense, we could say awareness is like the space of this room. Its nature is to be empty - acceptance is not something it practises.
The space of this room, when all file in here after dinner, it doesn’t have to practise allowing each of us. It doesn’t say, “I like the look of him, I accept him,” or “I don’t like the look of her, I resist her.” In other words, the space is not negotiating experience.
Accepting is its nature, it’s what it is, not what it does.
That’s the important thing to see, that what we essentially are is already inherently and perfectly without resistance. Once we see that, we stand as that. We know ourselves as that.
Then the mind is left to do whatever it is doing - whether it’s resisting, whether it’s accepting, whatever it’s doing, but it is no longer supported by our investment in it. Therefore in time, without that support, it comes naturally to an end.
The essential thing to see is that this acceptance is what we are, not what we do."
~Rupert Spira, from the video: Acceptance Is Not a Practice
"Resistance and acceptance are two ways in which the separate self perpetuates itself." So, when we are involved in the activities of resisting and accepting, we are missing the mark.
The point is to be the open space of awareness that we inherently are. Although we may feel we don't yet know ourselves as that, we can still allow the chattering of the mind to carry on, trusting that it does no harm if we're not taking it seriously.
This causes it to die down considerably and it frees us up to focus on taking our stand as awareness itself. We step back from what's going on in the room, to simply BE the room in which everything is taking place. What an empowering, peaceful and magnificently liberating step back this is!
5. The Phantom Self
"Let’s take an example where somebody says something to you which is hurtful and you feel upset. What is it that is upset?
Is whatever it is that heard the words upset? In other words, is awareness upset? Awareness is like an empty space. Imagine awareness is like the space of this room, it’s just pure sensitivity. It can’t be upset. Why not? Because it’s empty, there’s no resistance in it.
In order to be upset, something has to rise up and say, “No, I don’t like what’s being said.” But in absence of this something, the words just flow through. Like if someone was to throw a ball through this space, it would just flow through, it wouldn’t meet with any resistance.
Awareness is like that. It hears the words, the words just pass through. It just flows through and it doesn’t leave a trace in awareness, it doesn’t leave a trace in you. It doesn’t scar you, it doesn’t hurt you.
Now, when you hear the hurtful words, something in you rises up and meets the words. The words are floating through you, something rises up and clashes with the words and says, “I don’t like that.” What “I” is that, the “I” that doesn’t like these words? It’s not the “I” of awareness, so what “I” is it?
It’s the “I” you think you are. Now, go to that “I.” Try to find that “I.” What “I” exactly is that? Where is it? What’s it made of? You’re feeling on its behalf, you call it “I” so you must know it. Where is it? What is it? What do you find when you go towards it?
It’s a story. Can a story be upset? On whose behalf is that story being told? Who is the central character in that story? You point to your body but is your body upset by these words? The tightness in your stomach or your chest is the result of being upset, it’s the echo of the upset in your body, but it’s not the body itself. Your cheek or your nose or your ear doesn’t get upset when you hear the words. There may be an effect on your body, but leave the aftereffect, we’re going to the actual feeling itself.
So now, go back, who is the central character of this story, the “I” that is so hurt and upset? What do you find when you go towards yourself? What is that “I” that has been wronged?
We’ve already discovered it’s not your body. It’s not a thought, you can’t wrong a thought, you can’t upset a thought. So it’s not your thought that has been upset, it’s not your body that has been upset, and it’s not awareness, the one that hears the words, because that’s just an open, empty space that is open to everything. It’s not your mind, it’s not your body and it’s not awareness. What is it?
You don’t know what it is but you spend much of your life thinking and feeling on its behalf. You’re the one that is claiming the existence of this one. Why can’t you identify it?
It’s not there.
It’s a fictitious “I,” it’s the ghost in the system that is not really there, on whose behalf we spend most of our lives thinking and feeling.
You’re feeling upset and, instead of getting mad with the person that did whatever they did, you say, okay, I’m just going to go towards this “I” that is upset. Now, when you don’t find it, when you can’t find the one on whose behalf the upset is taking place, what happens to the upset?
And then, the next time the feeling comes up, you do the same thing again. You explore the “I” around whom it revolves and you go back again and again and again. You experience for yourself over and over again that this “I,” this separate “I” on whose behalf you have been thinking and feeling for so long is not there.
When you look for this “I” you find the “I” of awareness - open, empty, at peace. And this gradually becomes your identity. You begin to take your stand as that awareness and not as the reactive, upset self.
You still have reactions, but the reactions are no longer on behalf of a self that is always trying to defend itself or aggrandize itself through reactivity and relationship.
They’ll still be a response to a situation - you don’t become a stone. On the contrary, you become very sensitive but your reactions, your response will be responses of wisdom, of love, of understanding."
~Rupert Spira, from the video: Going to the Heart of an Emotion
I challenge you to look for this "I." The next time something happens in your experience, turn your attention inward and try to find this one who feels wronged, offended or upset in any way.
Follow the feeling to its source and see what you find. Are you the separate self or are you Awareness? Are you finite or infinite? Are you the small, fearful, reactive person in a complicated story, or are you the consciousness that holds it all in loving awareness?
6. Returning to Our Natural State
"If you think of what we normally think of as a body, we think of it like a capsule in which all our experience is contained. It’s made up of the skin, it’s a container defined by the skin in which experience takes place.
What is the real container of our experience? What does our experience really appear in? What do thoughts really appear in? Has any psychiatrist or neurologist ever found a thought in a brain or a mind? Or, indeed, have they ever found a mind?
Thoughts appear in awareness, not in a brain. Sensations appear in awareness, not in a body. In fact, our only experience of the body is a sensation or a perception.
The true body, or in other words, the true container of our experience is pure consciousness - this borderless field of pure knowing in which the landscape of experience appears, and, ultimately, when we go on and explore it more deeply, out of which it is made.
This understanding then has a visceral effect on the physical experience of the body. The apparently physical body is relieved of some of its tension because most of the tensions (at least those that aren’t required for practical purposes) are due to the fact that they serve a self which is not there.
So, when the pure and only self of pure knowing is discovered, the body is progressively and gradually relieved of this network of tensions and contractions and it returns to its original state which is a state of openness, sensitivity, lovingness."
~Rupert Spira, from the video: Acceptance Is Not a Practice
Consider the truth that is revealed in the words above. All these years we believed our experiences were contained within our mind and body. Is it any wonder we live as though we are temporary and finite beings?
But our experience points to a different reality, one in which the Self of pure knowing is discovered as the vast, limitless container of all experience.
Focus on your experience and not your beliefs, and you'll find yourself returning to "your original state which is a state of openness, sensitivity, lovingness."