What is the best approach to releasing thoughts and feelings that are crying out ‘I am separate’?
In a recent Q&A and in your book you state, ‘Meditation is simply to be. It is what we are, not what we do.’ I understand this and why it is said, as we cannot become what we already are. Isn’t there another way of looking at meditation as a way of intelligently seeing what hinders the realising of this? In other words, isn’t meditation useful for thinning out the clouds so the sky can be seen?
Do you think that there ought to be a degree of curiosity when one sits to ‘practise’ meditation? Don’t we want to get to the root of the problem we can call ‘I’? Don’t we want to look, to be curious about this presumed ‘I’?
What is the approach you suggest for releasing the quite complex network of sensations in the body that are crying out ‘I am separate’? Is it enough to experience them as they are, or do we need to be a little more investigative?
The statement, ‘Meditation is simply to be. It is what we are, not what we do’ has to be understood in context.
Normally we consider ourself to be a separate entity, located in and as the body. In order to discover what we truly are, as opposed to what we seem to be, an investigation into both the belief and, more importantly, the feeling of being such an entity will, in most cases, be necessary.
It is inevitable, to begin with, that that this investigation will seem to be an activity of the mind that is undertaken by the entity we presume ourself to be.
However, as this investigation deepens it is discovered that there is no separate agent inside the body, thinking, feeling, acting or undergoing an activity called meditation or investigation. Rather, it is discovered that, all along, even when we considered ourself to be a separate entity, located inside the body, all we ever were and are is the consciousness within which all things (including the belief and feeling of separation) appear and out of which they are made.
We realise that the apparent person is in fact not an entity but rather a process of thinking and feeling, made only of mind, that appears within (and is ultimately made out of) the knowing space of consciousness. And conversely, we realise that meditation, which we previously considered to be a process carried out by an apparent person, is in fact itself the knowing space of consciousness in which and out of which all things are made.
In other words meditation evolves, as it were, from an ‘investigative’ mode to a ‘contemplative’ mode, that is, from being something that we seem to ‘do’ as apparent entities, to being understood as what we ‘are’, presence. At this point we come to know ourself as this open allowing space of consciousness, rather than a body or a mind.
Although it may seem to the apparent person that this understanding is derived through a process of the mind, it is not the case. It is in fact a moment of recognition, that is, a moment when consciousness, as it were, tastes its own eternity, that relieves it of the mind’s superimpositions of thinking and feeling that it is an entity. It is only because we recognise what we are (although that is not an objective recognition) that we are able to see what we are not.
The mind is not, by definition, present in this timeless glimpse, and cannot therefore be said to be its cause. The mind can lead to the threshold of this possibility. It can explore the beliefs that it has that we are separate and located and see that there is no experiential evidence for such a belief. There it abdicates.
In other words, enlightenment is not the intellectual discovery of what we are not. It is the knowingness, beyond the mind, of what we are. It is this discovery alone that relieves us from the fear of disappearing which is the knot at the heart of the separate entity.
However, although the old habits of thinking and feeling on behalf of a separate entity are mortally wounded by this timeless taste of one’s self, they will continue to arise in most cases. The clear seeing of these beliefs and feelings for what they are is the apparent process through which we become established in the peace and happiness of our true nature.
This leads to the second part of your question:
What is the approach you suggest for releasing the quite complex network of sensations in the body that are crying out ‘I am separate’? Is it enough to experience them as they are or do we need to be a little more investigative?
It depends on what you mean by ‘experience them as they are’. To experience the body (and the world, for that matter) as objects that seem to be ‘me’ in the case of the body, and ‘not me’ in the case of the world, is to experience them as they seem to be, not as they are.
Once it has been discovered that we are this awareness or consciousness, we take our stand there and contemplate the apparent locations of ‘me’ in the body and, as a natural corollary to this, the apparent objects of the world and others which seem to be ‘not me’.
It is in this disinterested but completely allowing contemplation of the body and the world that the body loses its ‘me-ness’ and the world loses its ‘not-me-ness’. In this way bodily sensations no longer cry out ‘I am separate, I am exclusively you’ and perceptions of the world no longer cry out, ‘I am separate, I am not you’. Everything sings out, ‘I am made of You’.
It is in this sense that the quotation, ‘Meditation is simply to be. It is what we are, not what we do’ should be understood. Meditation starts with an investigative quality. In time, the investigation aspect gives way to a more contemplative attitude which, as the objects of contemplation are slowly relieved of their ‘objectness’ and ‘otherness’, is revealed as a simple abidance as the knowing presence that we are, in which and as which all things appear.
That is, from the point of view of the person we seem to go from investigation to contemplation to being. From the point of view of reality, being projects the apparent entity within itself and likewise projects the apparent process of investigation and contemplation within itself, only to come to recognise itself as it always already is, pure being.