An excerpt from “Vaster than Sky, Greater than Space”, Copyright © 2016 Mooji Media Ltd.
Excerpted by permission of Mooji Media Ltd., Sounds True, Inc. and Hodder & Stoughton Limited.
Stay as the ‘I Am’
We are all familiar with the sense of being. Without practising anything, we spontaneously refer to ourselves as ‘I.’ Each person can confirm, I am, I exist.
Am means “to exist, to be.” The sense of existence is naturally present and feels totally comfortable. It is the beginning of perception, and it functions during the waking state as the effortless witness and observer of all that arises. This feeling I am, I exist is the natural untaught way through which we recognize our existence.
But who is the ‘I’ that am, the ‘I’ that exists? Let’s look together. The practice of self-inquiry is powerful enough to take you all the way from identification with the body to unshakable and lasting peace.
Start with the feeling I exist. It takes no time, for it is already naturally here before any thoughts arise. It is no distance from you, so you don’t have to go to it.
Don’t look for the ‘I am’ – you are the ‘I am’! It is naturally here as consciousness. Just be self-aware.
Don’t let this natural feeling of presence combine with any other concept, thought, or intention. All intentions such as I want to accomplish such-and-such, I hope this inquiry pans out, or I want to become enlightened should be left aside. Stay with the vibration of presence – not merely the words, but the intuitive, subjective sense of being – I am, I am here. That’s all.
The mind may creep in and say, “Well, I don’t see anything; this isn’t working out,” and then it will mischievously start playing the usual distracting person-noise to draw away your attention. But you just remain in the sense of being. I exist. If the attention starts to drift off, don’t worry. Just bring the attention back to the simple ‘I am’.
Practice this self-inquiry for short periods of about five to seven minutes at a time. You can do this with eyes open or closed, while seated or while walking – it doesn’t matter. In the beginning, you may find it easier to just sit by yourself. Try to find a space and time when you are least likely to be disturbed, though this is not a condition or requirement. Remember: wherever you are, the sense of presence must be there. It is there without any effort at all. The fact that you can know that you are alive and awake is because the sense ‘I am’ or presence is there first.
Just focus on what this exercise is aiming at. Stay with the natural sense ‘I am’, the feeling of being. In the beginning you may feel tired, as though you are having to make a great effort to keep this sense ‘I am’ from mixing with other thoughts. Other thoughts come and want to play, bug do not engage them. Just be with the ‘I’ feeling.
Gradually, with a little practice, you will see that the sense ‘I am’ stays by itself, without intrusion, and you will start feeling a sense of expansiveness and peace. A natural feeling of wanting to stay more in this state will develop, but just start out like this, with brief periods of five to seven minutes of self-observation.
The fruits of self-inquiry
If you follow through with the inquiry with full heart and mind, then strong identification with the body and societal conditioning will change radically. That is a change in the idea of who ‘I’ am. It is a shift in orientation from being the conditioning, from I am this body, I am this person, I am the son of so-and-so, the mother of so-and-so, to being the witness, the one who is without belief systems, the one who is synonymous with the very ability to observe. You will arrive at the realization that you are just joy itself, and everything you do arises out of this joy, out of this spaciousness, light, and love. As the sense of personhood thins away, you begin to experience life more panoramically. At first, life, as seen by the personal mind, may seem real; you take yourself to be n individual ‘me’ making decisions and living your life accordingly. Then, you may come to see it as a play that is somehow unfolding effortlessly. And at a certain point, you will see it’s all just kind of Is-ness.
These observations are not intended to mystify your mind, but to bring it into the complete simplicity of being. I may talk like this here, but when I’m moving about in my daily life, I’m thinking, Oh, yes, you know, the pure consciousness and the mind. But I’m compelled to talk about it while it remains unclear to those in search of the living Truth.
We think it is so important to maintain a certain way of behaving and speaking. But I say, no, there is ample room in my Being for watching some TV or enjoying some reggae and the occasional soft drink. Why not? How can I step out of my own Being? There is no need to be especially religious. I don’t even have to b “Spiritual.” There is nothing I have to be or do. I don’t even have to be myself. For me, this is freedom, even beyond the concept of freedom. I am the immutable Self.
How simple life is until belief and identity are poured into the mind. A whole realm of the mind that is naturally quite magical is instead invested with plenty of energy with which to manifest a mundane and limited personal existence. But beyond the cultured mind are higher and more refined ways of seeing: the realm of awakened being. Here everything enters into joy, light, and peace. I don’t have to live life, nor d I “have” a life to live. I am life.
At a certain point, you will see that this body has never imposed any limitation upon what we are or upon what is. All of those limitations are only being dreamed. Everything – even apparent disharmony or difficulty – is this magnificent, magical consciousness. Everything is magical but also somehow, seemingly ordinary. However, the liberated one dwells beyond this realm of duality as the untouched seer – unborn awareness.
You Are Nothing Perceivable
Anything you perceive cannot be what you are. Simple observe this internally until it becomes naturally confirmed in the mind. You are earlier than anything perceivable. Stay as the awareness of this. Observe that all thoughts and sensations, all phenomena, come and go in front of you.
Notice that you are already here before anything appears on that screen of consciousness. You perceive this effortlessly. The computer is on but you don’t log in. Simply look. You will feel an inner spaciousness opening up in the immensity of being. Let this be your exercise as you move about in daily life: keep your focus on the sense of being rather than on the appearances arising in the mind space.
Being in this state of presence will reveal inner strength and awareness. But you may find that your mind tries to escape from it. Just observe this tendency. In the beginning, the force of distractedness will feel difficult to resist because the attention has been accustomed to drifting toward mental activity and trivia.
As this tendency is noticed, greater understanding will emerge. By continuing with detached witnessing, the pull to escape will begin to weaken, and an increased sense of presence will be felt.
You are at the very door of awakening. But be aware that the tendencies, habits and deceitfulness of the psychological mind will not be so easily transcended.
It isn’t that you have to suppress this energy of the mind. Rather, be in the witness state, with its natural, spacious, and omnipresent nature. It is your own true Self. Therefore, don’t waste energy and time trying to control the mind. Just stay as the impersonal awareness.
As you watch you will come to recognize that identity itself is just a thought, running from one story to another like a monkey jumping from branch to branch. In the past, it may have gone on for hours without you being able to catch it. But stay as awareness and you will find that your vibration is more open, loving, and free and that your consciousness is rising to a higher altitude. It will be much easier for you to catch the mind, because as soon as identity starts playing, an inner signal will light up, and you will quickly be able to recognize this play.
Now this is very important: who or what is witnessing the playing out of this identity? Don’t let the mind answer for you. Try to understand what is really being asked here. Don’t be in a hurry; remain focussed. Check in and verify the natural sense ‘I am here’. As what are you here? You may respnd, “I cannot say or see anything in particular. It’s just a sense of being.”
Keep returning to the being position. Develop the habit of observing from and as presence rather than as person. Through the state of presence, you will quickly grow in wisdom and intuitive insight. You will begin living in the high-altitude realm of presence, above the region of the psychological mind where the sense of personhood resides. Here the personal mind cannot breathe. It fades in its seeming power to influence the presence.
When the idea I am the person is sieved out, there remains just the ‘I am’ presence.
Allow time to marinate in this profound state of awareness-seeing-being. It is the Satchitananda state. Sat means existence, chit is consciousness, and ananda means pure joy or bliss. All beings loe this divine state. The play of personhood emanated from it and is sustained by it for a while, until there arises sufficient maturity in personhood to merge back into presence. All this is the divine play – the maya, or play of God.