Saturday, 24 August 2013

What Am I?

..........I become aware of my awareness, yet am nevertheless subject to random thoughts and a slight feeling of frustration.  Now and then I feel  physical discomfort.  In some way all those sensings are connected to my state of awareness, a massless, formless awareness.  There comes a moment when it seems as if all I need to do is to stop concentrating or focusing on anything.  In an odd way that leaves me in a kind of limbo where I am 'concentrated' almost by default on a nothingness.  I give up 'trying', at least for a series of momentary-nesses.  The links with the material world are still there in potential, but much weakened.  It isn't until the stillness moves that I realise how deeply I have travelled..........

                                                                              (An excerpt from my diaries)

How do I know that "I" exist, that is to say to exist as a reality?  I tacitly assume that I exist for two reasons. The first is that everyone around me assumes that they exist, although they may have no real existence at all. They may simply be holograms projected from data encoded on the boundary of the universe for all I know. On that basis, therefore, my assumed existence rests on very insecure foundations. The second reason that I assume I exist is that when in a state of meditation I am able to observe and become aware that there is that which is called the ego, false or virtual self which acts from its own consciousness. There are even occasions when I watch my actions, as if I am an independent observer. However, that status, independent of a virtual and therefore unreal self, may simply mean I exist but only relatively. Whilst this second reason gives a firmer basis for the assumption of existence, it is by no means entirely secure. The fact appears to be that I do not know myself, do not have enough information on which to form a firm conclusion.

Still I have the unanswered question before me, "What am I?" for I do not know. With effort I can know, through my intellect, much of what I am not. To all the statements that I might make as to what I am, I can answer, "No! Neither this, nor that!" Such statements of what I suppose myself to be merely describe my relationships with others, the many roles I play in life, my gender, my sexual orientation, the emotions I feel, and so on. Not one of those statements defines what I AM. As the Old Testament God said, allegedly, I AM THAT I AM! Take it or leave it! I offer, can offer, no explanations; nothing!

An inability to define myself, to know what I truly am, does not remove the urge to know. For so much of my life I have felt incomplete, two dimensional, like a cardboard cut-out. Now, I feel more complete. What has changed? What has happened inside me? Am I closer to knowing what I am? Is the consequence of all that I do, all that I seek, a growing sense of Being? Is what I am somehow a part of all that? Yet still I find myself at the mercy of powers I cannot control. Events occur within my unconscious mind of which I have no knowledge, much less understanding. Is it even possible to know what I am, the reality of what I am? 

And life passes. I do not. Oh yes, my body ages and tires. It almost seems as if my energies are steadily becoming converted into experiences and memories. But deep inside my being I am aware of that which does not seem to age. It is not so much everlasting, which implies time, but eternal, timeless, outside time. How can that be? If I, this tacitly assumed presence, could answer that question I might just get closer to knowing what I am, and maybe where I am.

The deeper I slip into meditation, the more I disidentify from all that would falsely claim to be my "I"-ness, the more I pass into a state of nothingness; no-thing-ness. Thoughts, emotions and senses come and pass on, but I remain. Images pass away and I am left behind. Do I sense fear? Maybe, or something like it perhaps. I sense an approaching state of ultimate emptiness, of a profound stillness that goes far beyond what my ego chooses to allow me, when it chooses to indulge me. I cannot force the pace of this new discovery, that I am nothing that I ever thought I was, or would want to become. I do not know what I am to be, because I first need to know what I am.

The Great Darkness of unknowing, of not understanding, steadily approaches, but I do not wish to turn away. This inner expanse of nothingness, this remnant of "I"-ness, would not wish to turn from the Presence that approaches, that somehow seeks me. Something else begins to tug at my attention. That something else forever seeks to dull my awareness of what is, my awareness of a new kind of freedom. That something, so full of its own fear, tugs again and again.  

"Do not leave me!" And I am held back;  my strength begins to wane. "I cannot face annihilation!"

That is not the real fear. To be left alone, to be lost, to be annihilated, implies I once Was and that I can remember. In that memory I am aware of a state of Having; I have a virtual being-ness. However, that is not true Being-ness. It is an illusion. I sense, but cannot know, that true Being-ness is having the slate wiped clean, to be nothing and nowhere except before a detached state of eternal presence; to be at one with the Reality of Eternal Presence.

And the Stillness moved........


  1. What happened there on the mountain between the man Moses and the burning bush? What was communicated when Moses asked his question? As we read in Exodus 3:13-15, Moses asks what he should say to the Israelites if they should ask him for the name of the one who sent him. In response, Moses receives a self-identification (a name) and is instructed what to say to the Israelites.

    A name. There is a liminal between no-thing and something. What springs from this threshold? Cultural inventions? Sense-generating cultural ventures? Names?

    Now you've given me much to think on, dear Tom.

  2. Rouchswalwe; Thresholds are truly wonderful places to be; the silent moment between one breath and the next; the point of paradox where opposites meet; the place where men and women touch the Godhead. Glad to have been a trigger for your thoughts.

  3. ...focus your mind on 'I am', which is pure and simple being.

    ~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

    In the late 80's I spent five years reading his book 'I Am That'. He was/is a very remarkable being and a teacher of Advaita. Having read it once I did so again (I'm a slow learner) and others besides. Sri Ramana Maharshi was another of the Advaita masters whose life and teachings touched my heart. I hope you don't mind me including links, but I did so because all you have to do is see their faces to know they know and understand the search, because they did so too.

    I recall one questioner asking Nisargadatta about his fear of letting go and the answer was that the abyss is only an appearance seen when we're still holding on.

  4. What Works

    I met him that once
    on the winding road. We sing
    about that long slog
    in so many ways
    as if we should make some noise
    on the way, or dance -
    we often dance it
    as if we can move closer
    in the turns and leaps.
    And some of us write
    it all down as if that would
    work. Maybe it does.
    Maybe all the art,
    all the song and all the dance
    actually works.

    11:14 PM 24 Aug 13

  5. Susan; Thank you for that. And I certainly do not mind you including links.

  6. Christopher; That is beautiful. Someone once told me that intent counts for a very great deal. And maybe "[It] Works" if and because our intent is well founded; if and because our sights are set on communicating with that something 'beyond'.

    I cannot say more. I am afflicted with a kind of tonguetied-ness.

  7. Tom, those timeless questions: who am I?..what am I? seem to have preoccupied humankind since the beginning of time. The ancient handprints on cave-walls don't answer it but seem to affirm: I AM...I am here NOW...I WAS here.
    The darker side of the question, as you have noted, is the knowledge and the fear that one day this "I" will no longer be here: the unbearable brevity of being! No matter what solutions or consolations we find to lighten that darkness, that void (if indeed it is a void) is still frighteningly incomprehensible. Occasionally it strikes me like a clap of thunder: one day I will be gone, whoosh! Vanished.

    As usual, you provoke far-reaching reflection.

  8. Natalie; I think the great tragedy in which so much of humanity wallows is that, unlike our cave-dwelling ancestors, we have it within our intellectual and spiritual grasp to reach some positive answers to our questions but choose not to even try. What is the point of humanity's existence if it cannot, or will not, engage in the process of 'becoming' wherever it can?

    I do not seek to kid myself into a belief system that eases the fear of what may be coming, but I do seek reasonable answers to my neverending questions. Is that not our birthright as human beings?

    Bless you!

  9. Tom, I found all kind of excuses not to come and look at what you had to say the end I come. I know that you will make me think about matters which I want to think alone about without sharing with others. But then I can't help but wanting to share and in doing so I feel so helpless because I can't find the words I need to do so. Maybe they don't exist as yet. I feel that at my age I should be further along at a better place near the end but I am not. So, whatever I am seems to be whatever I am for others and that changes all the time. So how can I ever know what or who I am?
    You see what happens? I say silly things - many will read them and I really don't care what they think. That's what I am today for myself and you are someone I trust and that's it for today.

  10. Ellena; So stop looking for excuses 'not to come and look at what I have to say'. Keep coming! All our thinking is done alone anyway, whether we choose to share the results of that thinking with others or not.

    I don't mind if you cannot find the right words to express what you want to say. You are not necessarily alone in that. But surely it is better to make the attempt, as you so often do, rather than walk away.

    There is no 'should be further along at a better place......' That's ego-speak. You are where you are, and that has nothing to do with what you truly are at a fundamental, spiritual level. Who is passing judgement on this matter? No-one except your ego-self; and what does IT know?

    We are what we are! Our inability to define what we are doesn't change that. But it does have interesting consequences. So keep coming. If you can find nothing to say, just wave a hand at me in passing. I'll understand.

  11. It's very moving to read your reflections, Tom. I used to feel so alone in pondering these questions, and then I found it very difficult to talk about them. Thank you for sharing your search so openly and honestly.

  12. Beth; It is such a pity that, for whatever reason, we sometimes find ourselves isolated. I have seen this in workshop groups so often. Perhaps, deep down, this is one of the number of reasons I finally decided to share my experiences on Gwynt.

    Of course my conclusions may not always be correct; I can be wrong in so many ways. All I can say is how I truly experienced what I write. I can do no other.

    Thank you for your comment.

  13. This fascinating post bumped up a memory of mine and caused me to blog today. Thanks for the spur jolt, Tom.

  14. Bruce; My pleasure. "Will We All Disappear?" showed just how close to the edge we are. Nothing is quite as certain as we would like it to be.