12 min read
We may be less religious nowadays, we may not go visiting temples, mosques, synagogues or churches so much. This is because we as humanity are to a certain degree shifting our attention from the concept of an external god to the understanding of our very own consciousness. In a way we are visiting our own consciousness as the temple. Our journey of exploring consciousness and growing awareness. There is a great saint called Anandamayi Ma who once said, “If you know god you know yourself and if you know yourself you know god.” That´s a very simple summary of the purpose of this journey. What we are doing on this journey is so exceptional with regards to the way we spend our days usually, occupied with self-concerns and the demands of daily life, and here we shift to intense concentration on that awareness which follows, witnesses, which is aware of this daily life. Which is always aware and which actually is the real miracle of life.
Yet it is a miracle we tend to overlook. So the journey is all about gathering our energy, gathering our attention to pay attention to this miracle that is greater than any miracle that has ever taken place. The awareness that is aware of any type of miracle is the miracle.
A simple approach always available to reconnect with this miracle is by paying attention to the most obvious fact of our existence. Which is the very sense that I exist, the very sense of self-existence, self-presence. The sense that I am. To shift to this basic presence is as if we are moving back to the beginning of so many sentences, and so many thoughts, and so many feelings that we experience every day. I am happy. I am sad. I want this. I want that. I am hungry. I am satisfied. I have a body. I am a man. I am a woman. I am a human. So at the root of all these sentences there is just one sense of self-existence. “I” is at the very beginning of each of these sentences. So now let us locate this sense of self-existence: for that we can perhaps look within our body. Is this sense of “I am”, this sense of self-presence, more present in a certain area of the body than in others? Perhaps right now mainly in the head, in the top of the head. In the forehead. In the chest. In the belly. In the hands. Perhaps it is above the head. This doesn´t matter. Wherever we feel it, even if it is right now like a very tiny seed of self-presence, just get in touch with this feeling. This very basic feeling. This very knowing that “I am.” Through your attention and breathing you allow this sense of self-existence to grow and grow as if your attention is the water and the sunlight that make the seed of “I am” grow and expand. It gradually spreads throughout the body. Until it is everywhere in the body and not just in that particular area. The sense of “I am” now fills the entire body from head to toe. But as you continue to breathe into that sense of “I am,” just like a cup that is being filled with water, if you don´t stop the water begins to overflow. In the very same way this sense of “I am” overflows beyond the boundaries of the body until it encompasses not only the physical body but also the space that surrounds it. It eventually fills the entire space from wall to wall permeating the objects in the room, but as you continue to breathe into it and allow it to expand, it naturally and effortlessly continues to flow through the ceiling, through the floor and through the walls. What started as a mere seed is now being realized as a presence that doesn’t have boundaries. The more you look for its boundaries the more you realize you don’t know where it ends.
It is nothing but a description of reality that can be directly experienced and is quite available to us.
Feel how it continues to flow to reach all the way to the core of the earth and at the same time it spreads throughout the universe all the way to its far edges, if there are such edges, until there is not even one molecule that you can imagine that is devoid of this presence. Feel how everywhere in the universe this sense of “I am” that has started so small is in everything, in every single point, in every sentient being, in every plant, tree, planet, sun. The entire universe is in fact the body of this “I am.” All phenomena are legs and arms and eyes and mouths of this “I am.” So this “I am” was hiding all along inside you. Every sense of self-presence is now revealed as the one universal “I am” that resides in the heart of every sentient being, every organism. Feel yourself as this “I am” and the world as your body. Now pour some of this presence back into the body so you can experience both this universality and the individual body and mind that you have at the moment.
I hope you understand that this is not science fiction, it is not a visualization that is meant to excite us. It is nothing but a description of reality that can be directly experienced and is quite available to us. It is just a matter of a brief meditation on the nature of our very sense of self-presence to realize that the universe is our body. That our “I am” resides in all and everything. It is a grand understanding, though, that is existential on this journey of exploring consciousness. But there is also another very important aspect. And that is the aspect of heart opening. We don’t necessarily know what heart opening really is. We can easily push that away as an esoteric phrase. But it is actually the most important tipping point on the journey, ultimately dissolving the gravity field of egoic consciousness forever. The heart, when it is unawakened, is centered. It has boundaries, it has limits. Limits to its concerns, limits to what can interest it, which is the source of our attention and what we determine to dedicate our attention to. When we think of heart opening there is a lot of talk about self-healing, self-acceptance, self-love. Working on letting go of our pains and wounds. Learning to be at peace with our relationships, and so on. That is all correct. However, this does not allow heart opening at all. This doesn´t enable the heart to break through its boundaries. Because what does it mean to break through boundaries? The heart presently feels so small so tiny, it is my heart. It needs protection and healing and acceptance and warmth. Expansion of the heart means it grows beyond the sense that it is my heart. It means I am able to include more in my heart. It becomes capable of including what is usually not a part of our self-interest, not a part of what is most urgently occupying us, troubling us, concerning us. So the expansion of the heart means that we are slowly including others and a universal sense. And that universal sense actually becomes the center of our attention.
What is required for heart expansion is abandoning my self-obsession, my self-concern. Being so centered within myself, so limited to my heart and to what I consider to be cherished objects. In this sense the heart is meant to break. We often use the term heartbreak only in a negative sense. But the heart needs to break in the sense of breaking its familiar boundaries, just as you do in meditation with the sense of “I am.” Suddenly this small seed is no longer located in our body. Suddenly it is everywhere, it is all inclusive. In the very same way the heart is not my heart. That is one of the biggest illusions because the “heart” in this sense is by nature a universal phenomenon. This is what our journey of growing awareness and expanding consciousness is all about. It teaches us a very simple and basic reality which is that the source of our suffering is our self-centeredness and self-occupation, being so busy with our problems, so limited to the concerns of our separate unit in time and space. This is why I suffer. Which means of course that the purpose of the journey is the cessation of my preoccupation with myself which means that I can leave it behind. It is no longer a psychological concern. I am no longer troubled with this self-creating, self-generating factory of problems. Now the thing is, because this is what the journey is all about, it is its purpose and the core insight, if I am still focused on this self-obsession, still living only for myself, for my own benefit, sooner or later my journey comes to a halt, it becomes frozen. The journey cannot unfold, it cannot continue to flourish. I am stuck in the gravity field of ego consciousness. The heart cannot open as long as I cling to this kind of very limited concept. It is not possible to open the heart to its universal dimension as long as the journey remains for myself, for my own sake, my own benefit.
The more we tried to live for our own sake, the more we felt dissatisfied.
We need to understand that the narrow focus on our happiness, on our liberation, prevents the full realization of the heart’s potential. We are keeping it so small while the heart’s potential is all about revealing itself as a universal phenomenon. The heart is the heart of all or it is nothing. Or it is forever in hunger, forever in poverty. So at a certain point, if I do not begin to realize that the whole journey is about stopping being so occupied with myself, with my journey, with my process, there is no more actual progress going on. I am just moving in circles. I can no longer break the confines. Consciousness can no longer expand.
So in this way the heart remains closed no matter what we practice. Why? Because the “self” remains at the center of even our most wonderful practices and experiences of “no-self” consciousness. We experienced the spreading of the “I am,” but as long as the heart is not open, this wonderful experience of reality remains contained by the little ego “self.” So the heart must become involved in this process of expansion. Otherwise, even if you don´t say it consciously, it is as if you were saying, “I (little ego-I) am the center of the universe. I am the most important person in the world.” But definitely the limited personal self, this sense of self-importance is grossly disproportionate. Please take a look at the journey of awareness. We perhaps experience great silence or peace or being here and now. The thing is that it is still our silence, our peace, our insight. So there is always an inherent limitation that will actually keep us in a state of neurotic dissatisfaction. We will not understand why. There is still some kind of unresolved limitation. There is no breakthrough. And it is a fact that this obsession – the obsession for our satisfaction – has led us to a state of dissatisfaction. The more we tried to live for our own sake, the more we felt dissatisfied. Isn’t that what propelled us to embark on this journey in the first place? Wasn’t this the realization that awakened in us the passion for a more authentic way of life, a more authentic experience of reality?
As long as I don’t recognize this fact, that this is what the journey is about, the realization that a life focused on my own personal self – no matter how I try to embellish it, to decorate it, to make it more colorful, more authentic or whatever – at the end of the day it will lead to dissatisfaction. So our search for satisfaction leads us to constant dissatisfaction. And this completely continues on this journey, we have just replaced our search for satisfaction in the external world with the search for satisfaction in the internal world. The very focus on ourselves causes very tiny problems to be magnified. We can be so ridiculously busy with such petty things for days, weeks, months, for years. And this also causes our desires, the fulfillment of our desires, our small wishes to become so important. It appears so significant, so needed. But this only keeps us in the loop.