Recently someone on Facebook asked me why I have such an interest in finding out ‘who’ is raising the issues we are discussing – on his end.
I covered some of this in a recent article on meditation and it goes along with much of what Eckhart Tolle talks about when he harkens back to the Oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece and its tenet to “Know Thyself.”
At this meeting I was still actively looking for “answers” and asked a question I have long ago forgotten but Bentinho looked at me and said, “Who is asking?”
It was the first time the question was posed to me like this and instead of trying to answer, I fell silent – and realized that the question had come from a need to be noticed – for attention – and not for actual knowledge.
I also connected to a deeper more sincere depth of need behind the question but it once again led to – more questions.
In such instances, it is helpful to look inward to notice where such a question comes from: sincerity or ego.
But always there is something – or what Eckhart calls “no thing” that notices.
Michael would often describe his own inner inquiry and suggested that if you actually do it – not think about it – you will also reach a very interesting personal conclusion.
He would describe how he would get quiet and ask “who am I” and the first response was a series of thoughts – and they could be dismissed as “one’s self” because, as Eckhart describes so well – the thought cannot be “me” because “I” am what notices the thought.
So go deeper and generally one hits upon – as Michael described it – a “feeling.” This could be an actual emotion but more likely it is a sensation. In either case it cannot be “you” because again “you” are what notices this – and probably labels it – an “itch” – a “sensation” – a “feeling.”
The result if you are sincere is a “full stop.” A recognition begins to form that there is always another layer. I have also written about how neuroscientists like Douglas Hofstadter have described this phenomenon in their search for the root of consciousness. Check out I Am a Strange Loop.
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But again this is not a hypothetical question – you must actually do the inquiry just as with meditation – which is analogous to this inquiry – it proves beneficial only with consistency over time.
But after a while the “witnessing” faculty also notices that “you” can also notice your own voice. “You” can begin to identify different tenors of your own voice that connect to emotions – confidence, anger, frustration, need (for attention or recognition) and so on.
This can be helpful in therapy or with someone you trust who begins to encourage vocalizations that come from a sense of integration rather than separation or disconnection.
But the key benefit is dis-identification with thought. It leads one past the superficiality of “positive” thinking because one recognizes via experience that one is not one’s thoughts, feelings or sensation but the witness/“noticer” of these phenomena.
This was enormously helpful to me because it resonated with a branch of philosophy that I had been exposed to in college and had forgotten – aptly named “Phenomenology.”
Phenomenology does not posit a “self” because according to phenomena that can be observed or studied, there is not a separate self to be found. There is only what happens, or as some sages have said, only the experience of being here now.
One last point on the Cartesian misunderstanding underlying much modern stupidity – “I think therefore I am.” If this were true we could control and actually make ourselves think certain thoughts.
Nassim Haramein talks about this when he says that looking for consciousness in the brain is like looking for the guy talking inside the radio or TV. Our mental activity is still very much a mystery and neuroscience in particular is beginning to understand that it is not “local.”
We can focus on a topic. We can create the circumstances that may lead to more pleasant or even more “productive” thoughts. But thoughts arise “unbidden” on their own. If you watch yourself with honesty you will see this. And you never know what the next thought will be.
Finally this comes back to the elusive sense of presence – or peace – that so many of us are seeking.
How do we apply this in our daily lives? One “trick” that was given to me by another teacher was that if you are overwhelmed or even in a conversation where you can notice that you are being triggered, begin to “feel the inside” of your arm or leg.
In other words, shift your attention inward while you are engaged outwardly. Connect to sensation to become present.
And then keep asking your “self” exactly ‘who’ or ‘what’ is making these choices.
This inquiry consistently experienced can lead you further than most books, seminars or retreats; as Eckhart also suggests. Stop expecting answers from the next book. Instead look inside with silence and sincerity. You are the world – and the answers – you are seeking.
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