You are the imperishable, unchanging, timeless, and nameless essence of being. That experiential truth, however simple when touched, is unreachable by reason, knowledge, or the efforts of our ordinary “I.” It is thickly obscured by the deeply conditioned belief in our familiar ego-self. In actuality, the person we believe we are is a made-up mental construction stored in memory – an accumulation of past experiences, beliefs, habitual patterns, and conditioned reactivity. We are not born with this individual separate self. We are born as human “beings.” The personal self develops later and obscures who and what we truly are. The tenacious belief in a personal self is a disaster to our soul, spirit, communal life, and planet.
However obscured our true self may be, we all know that there is more to life than our day-to-experience. We’ve tasted it. We’ve had glimpses. We know it by heart. That is why we are seekers, seekers searching for a seemingly lost treasure that is none other than our authentic self. If we did not remember, in our most silent and sublime moments, we would not be seeking the serenity, joy, ease, and peace of a simple carefree presence and beingness – our essential unchanging self.
The problem is that we search in the wrong place. Cut off from the inner essence and source of our natural self, modern culture mistakenly points our search towards outer experiences – fame, name, success, materialism, sterile “spirituality,” sexuality, and so on. We are told that we can find what we are seeking in the world of “things” and “doings.” That can easily consume, and often does, a lifetime of searching. Searching in the wrong place the search is never over – just exhausting and disappointing. And the mantra of this futile outer search is “try harder,” “it’s around the corner.” But it’s all to no avail. There are certainly moments of happiness and pleasure in this outer search, but like all other outer experiences, they are transient and destined to be lost. The unchanging essence we seek remains unrealized.
However, we can awaken to the recognition of our authentic self and bring an end to the personal distress that is an invariable part of our ordinary self. But for this, we must first look in the correct place, within. When the false belief that we are our personal self begins to fade and we catch increasing glimpses of an expansive, natural, and more serene self, we are ripe for transformation.
Then, meditation becomes quite simple. We spend a bit of time, if necessary, quieting and withdrawing our attention from random mental activity and settle into inner silence – an experience of awareness, observation, being, and presence. We don’t seek to suppress mental active, we merely cease to “log in” or “subscribe” to mental movements. We allow the movements of the mind to come and go, without comment, without attention, without elaboration.
The easeful stillness of awareness and presence is a transitional state between our personal self and natural self. It is not an end in itself. As we increasingly rest in a mere beingness and awareness, we gain increasing access to our authentic self, which is effortless, easeful, and natural. We can begin to observe its qualities and the absence of the usual mental disturbances and afflictions. It is a serene self, a state of unchanging well-being, wisdom, contentment, and true freedom.
Try this small experiment. Close your eyes, drop everything, and quiet your mind. Then ask yourself, without trying to answer with your usual mind, “Who AM I?” Let that question sit with you. You will find that this phrase is like a Zen Koan. You may go through various identities, gender, roles, and so on. But quickly you will notice that you are neither this or that, nor this or that. Stay with the question, “Who Am I?” When your conceptual mind exhausts itself,uselessly trying to find the true self, your mind will go silent. Stop, be present, and there it is. “Who Am I? I AM.” That’s it.
Of course the usual mind will seek to reassert its dominance. You know its voice, “This is only a meditation,” or “How can I live and relate from this space,” and so on. Observe that voice and let it go as well. Remember that all of the great spiritual and wise teachers lived from the inside, and far from their lives being passive, they greatly enhanced the human experience. True presence is a wise experience and profound healer.
So, I ask you to consider dropping the belief that you are your ordinary personal “I,” and look within for the one you have always been, the one that promises to be the gold you seek. This unchanging self will be a resilient self that will accompany you through all of the challenges of daily life, never losing touch with the oneness and sacredness of the whole of life.
To learn more about Dr. Dacher’s work or the practice of meditation, visit: http://ElliottDacher.org