Self: The Structure of Identity

It is undeniably true that our sense of identity affects our view of the world we see around us. As a particular nationality, there are other nationalities which we have a particular attraction or aversion to. As a certain skin colour, our view of the world is shaped by the prejudices, both past and present, of the people around us.

Understanding ourselves is therefore of paramount importance. Our whole experience of the world and of life can be transformed by gaining a deeper understanding of who we are. So what is our identity composed of, and how does this affect how the world is seen?

To begin with, we can imagine our sense of self like an onion, layered from the surface to the core with different sorts of identification. On the surface level are all of our conscious beliefs about who we are, the sorts of things which cross our mind each day. These can be simple things, like ‘I am a builder’ or ‘I am woman’. The identifications will be obvious, and are often associated with the body.

As we move through to deeper layers, identification becomes more subtle and more subconscious. The extent of this subtlety ranges vastly. The thought ‘I am a failure’ may emerge occasionally, or at a much deeper level, perhaps never even questioned by most humans, the thought ‘I am my body’ exists.

These layers of identity are formed by thought. The outer conscious levels are more easy to relate to for most people. As we explore ourselves, we look deeper and deeper into these layers, and make more of these subconscious thoughts conscious. When they become conscious, we are able to approach them and see through their illusory nature.

It is essential to emphasise that the entire structure of thought and identity is false. The whole system is based upon the premise that our beliefs about ourselves are correct, and that our view of reality is correct. When we explore these layers, the illusion begins to fall away, and the core of the structure becomes more apparent. At the centre of identity lies beingness, or what is sometimes referred to as the ‘I-AM Presence’. The entire structure of the ego identity is based upon the fusion of this feeling with thought, thereby giving apparent ‘life’ to those thoughts. What is crucial to realise is that there is no truth to this identity, as it is entirely based upon our assumptions and beliefs about the world, which are unique to ourselves.

When we focus attention on the beingness at the centre, relaxing into the feeling without the need of thought, the Presence begins to detach from the thought structure around it. Over time, the identity collapses, as all of its energy was reliant on the sense of beingness at the centre. This is when our True Self is revealed. The True Self is not radically different from who we were before. Our personalities, which we had believed were linked to our beliefs and identity, remain and are enriched by the sense of peace and immortality which our True Self provides. To others, it appears as if we have never changed, save for being more happy and loving our lives more. The transformation from ego to True Self is therefore subtle, so much so that it is unlikely that anyone else will notice.

The illusory structure of the ego must collapse, because it contains one fatal flaw. Desire, of any form and for anything, is in fact the natural need to realise our True Self once again. It is a force which wants to pull us inwards, but is often falsely redirected towards objects in the external world, which we believe will bring us happiness.

Eventually, when it is seen that the world can never provide us with the happiness we crave, attention returns inwards, and to the source of our very being. Resting in our own Self, we burn away the false veil of the ego, and realise our True Self once again. This is the beautiful ‘journey’ which every human being is undertaking in every moment of their life, and although many will never come to understand the ‘Truth’, desire makes it certain that one day they will see through this primal illusion.

The Primary Cause: Mental Health and Truth

It is no secret that mental health is a serious problem in our modern society. Often unrecognised, and many times denied, it is impossible to say exactly how many people struggle with these issues, or whether it is a pandemic which affects all of humanity. Nonetheless, the science of the mind has developed in many forms to combat the problem, and counselling and drugs are used to treat the symptoms of various conditions.

However, while it is true that we are better able to understand these problems now, and provide some relief to those who experience them, such remedies do not solve the problem as a whole. Arguably, our minds are the single greatest cause of pain on the planet, especially in western society.

As this blog is characterised by an explanation of Truth, I do not want to delve too deeply into what that is in this article. I do, however, want to stress the importance of understanding ourselves to beat mental health problems. Too often, teachers and spiritual gurus talk about states of bliss, attained through certain techniques, but do not actually want to get down and dirty with the problems around them. The best teachers are those who understand suffering, have experienced it, and are willing to empathise with others in order to help them.

Spiritual teachers have become somewhat of an obsolete part of society. They sit on their pedestals and preach about how good life really is, without facing the reality of the suffering in people around them. This is why they are so often frowned upon by hard-working people, who see them only as money-grabbers and posers.

It is wholly possible for those who understand the Truth to make real change in society. While it is true that spiritual teachers should be more willing to enter the world to help others, it is also true that people need to develop a better understanding of these teachers and be more open to learning about themselves. Yes, there are some nutters out there who preach all about ‘Enlightenment’ but never seem to help anyone, but there are also very genuine people who understand the Truth and feel only compassion for others. If we can become more open to these people, and to exploring our own inner nature, we can begin to combat mental health disorders on a much vaster scale, not just treating them, but curing them altogether.

I genuinely feel that what western society needs more than anything right now is a cure for mental health problems, and these people have it. What is important is finding those who are genuine enough and have the right understanding to really help, and it is through them that we can all begin to see a brighter future, born through knowing who we really are.

Understanding Reality: Why are we so afraid of the Truth?

Learning hard truths about the world is one of the many ways through which we grow as human beings. In our minds, we have a view of ourselves and the world around us, which is based upon our understanding of reality and how it operates. When we are forced to confront a so-called ‘hard truth’, we are forced to shift these ideas and form a new identity and vision of reality. This is why such revelations of truth are hard, because they force us to surrender our past assumptions and beliefs, which can be painful.

This is exactly the reason why understanding ‘True Reality’ is so terrifying. Even when we glimpse it, facilitated by some stimulus which takes lets us transcend the mind, and even when we feel the love and peace which accompanies it in our own hearts, we quickly return to the prison of our minds, which quickly begin to hound us with fearful thoughts and the terror of death. Why? Because to understand the Truth, the mind will die, and with it our perceived sense of self.

This is the only real death. The body is only another object which we perceive, but our True Self cannot die. It is such a shame that these ideas, which are so powerful and so liberating to humanity, who have become tied up with their experiences of the world, are not more widely known and better understood. They are found in religions, but are often distorted by cultural symbols and rituals. They are found in spirituality, but are again distorted by being joined with New-Age ideas and beliefs.

The Truth stands on its own devoid of associations. It is not reliant on any belief system, and can be realised by anyone, regardless of their background or profession. It is fear which keeps us tied to falsity, but when we have the courage to surrender ourselves, there will never be anything to fear again. This is our ultimate objective, and it can be realised right here right now, without having to travel to any location or read any book.

So what is the Truth?

What is it that is always present, regardless of what is experienced or what state the body is in, be it waking, dreaming, or deep sleep? No experience can be perceived without you being there to perceive it, and regardless of what is happening or what is felt, who you really are, your True Self, is watching unaffected by it. This is most clearly seen in the state of deep sleep, where no objects exist to be perceived and yet we are still there.

So how can we realise the Truth experientially?

It is important to say that there is no technique which can bring about this realisation. If there was, everyone would be performing it and knowing the Truth would be easy. Instead, it is about taking attention and energy away from what we are already doing: thinking. Resting our attention in our sense of being, and allowing thoughts to pass without following them, is the most effective way to starve our minds of energy.

There is genuinely nothing else which we can do. Gaining knowledge of the subject is helpful, but leads to excessive analysis and thinking. Searching our experience for the very thing which gives life to that experience is ridiculous. Relax. Feel what it means to be alive within you and surrender your control to it.

To live in Truth is the most rewarding experience you will ever have, and it can be achieved by anybody and everybody. There is no barrier in the way and no journey to take. The Truth is available right now, but it is only you that can decide to accept it.

What is Enlightenment?: Putting an End to Suffering

In many Eastern religious traditions, and through many spiritual groups in the West, we are told that Enlightenment is the greatest thing which anyone can achieve. In Buddhism, Enlightenment brings about the end of suffering, an outcome which I am sure every person on this planet would love to experience.

There are many myths and legends surrounding Enlightenment. Those who have ‘achieved’ it are said to gain mystical powers, and to become Enlightened in the first place, they had to become a monk or sit meditating for days on end. These stories perpetuate an elitist view of ‘Enlightened beings’. They are seen as characters larger than life, and in many cases exist in a league beyond the realm of normal humanity.

To dispel these myths, we need to understand what ‘Enlightenment’ is. This grand achievement is often made synonymous with the realisation of ‘Truth’ or of our ‘True Self’. The idea that something is ‘True’ means that it will be exactly that in every situation and for every person, regardless of where they are or what they are doing. This means that regardless of whether people believe that they are ‘Enlightened’ or not, they must still be their ‘True Self’, else this would not be ‘Truth’.

From this idea then, we can conclude that every person on this planet is already ‘Enlightened’ and living in Truth. What is it then which distorts the Truth? The answer is our minds. In our heads, we all have different views of what reality is like and how reality should be. These ideas, which we hold so dear to ourselves, distort the real nature of existence, which in turn leads to our suffering. The core of this web of concepts is our beliefs about our identity. The entire world is seen in relation to who we are, and is characterised by these ideas. Our Enlightenment is therefore veiled by the limited identity which we impose upon ourselves.

How then can we dissolve this identity?

Firstly, it is important to realise that this ‘ego’ is not real. It is an illusion created by though and that alone. We have been and always will be our ‘True Self’, it is just that thought creates a false distance between who we think we are and who we actually are. This distortion is perpetuated by the attention which we give it, and attention is the food upon which it thrives. To finally dissolve the mind, the attention must be relaxed and dropped into the ‘heart’, or our sense of existence (I AM presence). By relaxing the attention in this feeling of being, what might be termed ‘self-abidance’, we detach our feeling of existence from the illusory thoughts we have about ourselves. The mind becomes weaker, and who we really are is revealed. It is important to note that this is not a technique or an action, it is simply the letting go of the dependence of thought in order to abide as who we really are.

The moment we rest our attention in our sense of being, we realise our Enlightenment. Who we really are, our ‘True Self’, can never be conceptualised through thought or seen with attention. The moment we sacrifice our minds to reside in being, we become our ‘True Self’. With the mind gone, Reality no longer contains imperfections or problems, as these were creations of the mind. Pain is experienced, but no longer suffered. The whole world is accepted because there is no longer any resistance against it, and is seen to be only the Self.

This is the promise of religions and spiritual groups throughout the ages, and is available right now, in this very moment, within our own hearts. Stop searching the world for your happiness, and find it right now within yourself. The Self is all you will ever need.

Immortality: The Quest for our True Self

It is an age-old truth that everybody is searching for something.

Every human being has known what it means to desire, to long for an object, a person, or an event which they believe will transform their lives. Whatever this object may be, the need for it is driven by a sense of lack in the present, and the belief that by fulfilling this need, every problem will be solved.

But we must be honest with ourselves, honest enough to admit that nothing has ever and will ever bring us the lasting peace and happiness which we desire. Nothing on the face of this Earth, either now or in the future, can provide this for us, and we will spend our entire lifetime searching for something which does not exist.

Though this outlook may appear cynical, inside of despair hides a greater, more beautiful Truth. While no object exists in the universe which can bring us eternal peace, happiness, and fulfilment, there is one thing which can. The search for contentment in the world is a distorted ploy of the mind, which is driven by the one real desire, the desire to find our True Self. We look for this in the outside world because our minds must die to know the Truth, and so our thoughts will forever take us away from our home, where we already reside.

We are always the Self, but we believe we are apart from it, and we become beings capable of death and suffering. And so we search the Earth, the stars, the universe to find it again, but it is this very search which keeps us from that ultimate realisation. So long as you desire something to fill the void in your heart, you will suffer. Instead, rest your attention, your need to search and acquire, into your hearts, and let your minds whirr down to a close.

You never needed to search for happiness. It was what you are all along.

The Eleventh Prison

Things that once seemed absurd now are obvious.                                                                          You have been released from ten successive prisons,                                                                  each larger and containing the last.

The wide plain you’re on now,                                                                                                                   do you feel it closing in? It is possible                                                                                                      to reject and admit the same thing.

– Rumi

To be imprisoned is to lose one’s freedom. It is a punishment designed to inflict suffering and loneliness, a torture which changes a person forever.

But there are many sorts of prisons.

If we are honest, our freedom is curtailed by our own hand. We limit ourselves through the thoughts we have, and the responsibility of identity which we impose on ourselves. This bondage is a burden which all human beings must overcome, and while we might believe we are free, with the power of our will, we cannot struggle and escape the tether which is our own mind.

The mind will always detain us. It is a fetter which relies on the food we feed it, on the thoughts we sanction and encourage. Any logical mind will always succumb to this trap. It is only when we abandon logic and ‘sanity’ that possibilities arise, and light shines through the stone ceiling. The cell which we built for ourselves begins to crumble, and with each step, we stand in a world wider and more open: more free.

To sacrifice our identity, and our beliefs about the world, is to throw away certainty and sanity. It is no easy step to take, and one which leads down the steady road to death, to die before we die. The plain of infinity closes in around us, and when all of eternity resides in our heart, we perish, only to be born anew as a being beyond death.

To know and understand this is to be free of the Eleventh Prison. Dedicate your life to finding the key.

Silence – The Final Gateway

In every moment we make a choice.

On the one hand, we can choose to give ourselves to the world, to fuse our identity with the objects and people we see around us. This is the first option. In doing so, we become small people in a big world, a world filled with countless dangers and problems which must be overcome. Form confuses us, entrances us, and we fall into the embrace of fantasy and delusion. Though painful, this brings us comfort, to know that we belong in a world and that we are a part of the reality we see before us.

The second option is far more daunting. To stray from the well-trodden path in any situation is terrifying, but to question the very nature of our existence is beyond insanity. If we choose to break off from the path, to sink our minds into a silence where thoughts cannot reach us, we live in state of unknowing and uncertainty. In this silence, the shackles around our heart become looser, and with every second that we spend in this thoughtless place, we pull further and further away from the web of pain and suffering which most call life.

In the final moment, when the last chain is burnt, we exist in pure silence, a place where no thought will ever arise and no suffering can be felt. It is living beyond the boundaries of form and limitation, living unbound and free. There is no greater goal than this. It is through sacrificing everything that we know and love that the Final Gateway appears. When you walk, walk with faith in the unknown, and you will pass into the silent paradise beyond.

The Unknown: Living in the Bliss of Ignorance

Why do we want to believe in fantasy? Why is it that we feel so deep within us that there is something so much more to this world, something of unutterable power and beauty? Like a dream, life goes by and we are caught in its web. But to look around and to see the wonder, the danger, and the joy of existence is to live as we are meant to live, breathing life not only into our lungs but into our hearts.

Adventure, travel, mystery: these are the things which we as humans will always be fascinated with. The idea of the unknown, and the wonders which it holds will forever be an addiction to the human spirit, one which we try so hard to suppress. It is the fuel for human discovery, progress, and achievement, and it is the lifeblood of our quest to understand ourselves.

Why restrain it?

When we live in the unknown, we are like children again, discovering a world which we thought we knew but never understood. Without a plan or map, we are left as spontaneous beings, feeling our way through life. Living without knowledge, like a blank slate that can never be written upon, we exist in a dream world where everything is new and exciting. The simplest of things can become our greatest joys: the grass swaying in the wind or the warmth of the Sun on our faces.

Give in to the mystery and revel in the unknown in every moment. We can try to create our own guidebook to life, but what’s the fun in that? Just live without expectation and see where life takes you, because I can guarantee that wherever you end up, the journey will be much more exciting.

Riding the Wave: Living Life to the Full

The Universe is an incredible place. In every moment, life unfolds in a sequence of events which are entwined together in a way which we will never understand. Everything, from the falling of a leaf to the motion of a planet, is affected by and affects everything else. In a way, existence is like one complex organism, a living and breathing being extending across the cosmos.

In respect to our own lives, every moment and every event which takes place is influenced by everything around us. The delayed arrival of the early morning train, or a quick rain shower, will change the course of our lives forever. In a way, our lives are a constant unfolding of what is already determined, like a great wave slowly crashing into shore. We are almost powerless to influence it, and as much as we would like to believe that we have some control, we can only make slight adjustments to its course. 

Life, then, is something to be experienced rather than conquered. To live life while constantly trying to change it is to miss all the beauty and the joy around us. If we are able to simply live, and allow the current of life to flow, we will experience everything to its full extent. 

To fight the wave is to tumble into its grip, thrown about in confusion by its mighty power.  But when we give into it, and let it carry us on its awesome crest, life becomes a joy and a blessing.