As we grow older, we gain a remarkable ability to look back on our lives and contemplate the various people we once were. We say things like “I can’t believe I was like that” and “I didn’t know who I was back then”, as if we know who we are now. In 10 years, the chances are we’ll look back at now and jest about how naïve we were in 2020.
The truth is, our mind is lying to us. It lies to us about everything, covering its tracks so it can manipulate us into states of collective one-up-manship. How is it that we can look back and comment on who we were? The fact is, we don’t. We are looking at a phase of personality; an idea of an identity, an illusion.
We spin stories of a wonderful or dreadful character in our minds and hold ourselves up to this illusory opinion. I’m an engineer, a dad, a musician. It’s all falling away and yet we cling to these ideas so strongly that we defend them with our life when threatened.
“You’re not very good at guitar” – HOW DARE YOU! I am a musician!
10 years later, the same human looks back and agrees that, in fact, I wasn’t a very good musician. Almost as if it’s a completely different person making the observation! And yet, there’s the distinct feeling of “me” that’s always been there. How can we change and still be “me”?
The thing is, you’re not who you think you are. There is an ever unchanging constant that has been there since the day you were born. It was there 10 years ago, and is there right now as you read these words. The feeling of “I am”, with nothing added to it.
Under the heavy blankets of personality, belief systems, opinions and knowledge is an untainted and immutable sense of existing. Awareness, consciousness, whatever name you want to give it. Some call it the essence of God, but we needn’t be so controversial as to open that can of worms.
We hold so strongly to our belief systems that we feel personally attacked whenever somebody questions them. Even if you’re incredibly laid back, there will likely be something that gets your back up. Perhaps it’s the sound of babies crying – oh how it annoys you so, the screeching sound of childhood despair. The suffering you feel, in that situation, is extra. You have an idea in your mind, whether conscious or unconscious, that the sound of that scream is bad. That it annoys you. It is entirely possible to let it be, accept it as reality and just continue to live, but the mind tricks us into choosing suffering instead. It craves drama, even if only inside.
The mind is incredibly clever at making you believe it’s who you are. It says “I” and “me”, it doesn’t say “we” or “you”. It is so clever, in fact, that it gets away with saying things such as “My mind” right in front of you without ever being questioned. Who’s mind?
“My body”, “my mind”, “my thoughts”, “my emotions”, “I think”, “I feel”, who?
If you were thoughts, you would not be aware of thinking. If you were emotions, you would not feel them. There must be a central “I” that can be aware of these things, otherwise you would be in a trance state of unrealised existence for your brief stay in this world.
It is incredibly difficult to stop identifying with your thoughts, behavioral patterns, emotions, history, opinions and belief systems. Difficult, but not impossible. The answer is not in finding a new identity in the idea of having no identity, but to completely drop all pre-conceptions about everything entirely. Yes, including the things you think you know. They may still be facts, in some cases, but there is no reason to feel even the slightest hint of annoyance when somebody questions you.
You do not need to hold strong to the belief in a deity, or your traumatic past, or that you completed a medical degree and have a fancy title in front of your name. Can you touch a title? Feel it? It’s nothing, and you are nothing.
Underneath all of these somethings is nothing. That is where everything came from, and that is what you are. It may sound depressing to the person who is completely identified with being something, indeed, but perhaps it’s time to let it all go.
Become nothing inside, achieve the mind of a beginner, stop identifying with what’s in your head and you’ll eventually reach effortless peace inside. That’s all there is. There are many methods that help to achieve such a state of being, including meditation, but there is no reason to get religious or spiritual about it. In fact, to become a “spiritual person” is quite the opposite of dropping belief systems in the first place.
You can unburden yourself of suffering, drop all opinions and sense of identity, and yet still function perfectly well with dreams and ambitions as you do now. You can be intelligent, learn things and run your own business. The difference is that if you don’t achieve anything or you lose it all, it doesn’t matter. You’re happy, always, and isn’t that the greatest achievement one can reach in life?
Your mind is an incredible tool, capable of tremendous feats. Everything that humans have brought into existence was once no more than a thought. It truly is amazing, but it’s all too easy to have too much of a good thing. Momentum builds up over time and we move from one activity to the next, one accomplishment to the other, one break down to a new. Endlessly distracting ourselves with flashy apps and dangerous activities. Break the momentum, marinade in the effortlessness of simply being.
Life is actually very easy. It’s effortless; it goes on whether you add to it or not. We just make it hard with all of our busy work. It is fine to have goals and interests, just do not identify with them. Once day you’ll be finished and will seek to occupy your time with the next thing before long. The thing you are really searching for, deep down, is already there. It’s you.
Stop avoiding the feeling of existing. Dive into it, discover yourself beneath the conditioned mind of thought, opinion and emotion. Join the dance of life, and everything will work out perfectly well.