Methods and Means
Part II: The Natural State
Discovering and resting in the Self
The following quotes are distillations of the teachings of some of our most respected and revered teachers past and present.
Read them slowly and carefully, not as mere words, but as potent, dynamic catalysts for self-knowledge. You will notice they are all pointing in one singular direction.
Said another way, what they are asking is:
'WHO OR WHAT IS THE YOU READING THESE WORDS?'
'When one realizes the Seer there is nothing else to be seen,
no other place one wishes to go to visit.
Seer, the object seen, and the act of seeing
all these now merge into One,
the substratum of all.
The state of realization is like a straight main road;
the intellect and the senses are the jungle.
We are all wandering about in the jungle.
it is difficult to get to the main road,
but once there
the way is straight and easy.
That is why I say this realization of the
Self is easy.'
- Sri Ramana Maharshi
'[Happiness] is eternal, unchanging, and constant. It is still, it is calm, and it is complete. It searches for nothing, it does not seek anything, it is absolute, and it is. Your access to it is in your capacity to be still, to relax, and to stop engaging with your thinking. Thus the only thing that can stop you from feeling happiness is you. To continue to look outside for something that is already inside only serves to distract you from looking within.'
- Jac O'Keeffe
'The Direct Path, by which the mind returns directly to its source through the recognition of its innate peace, clarity and luminosity, is the essence and culmination of all spiritual discipline and can be found at the heart of all the great spiritual and religious traditions.'
- Rupert Spira
'The real is near, you do not have to seek it: and a man who seeks truth will never find it. Truth is in what is - and that is the beauty of it. But the moment you conceive it, the moment you seek it, you begin to struggle; and a man who struggles cannot understand. That is why we have to be still, observant, passively aware.'
- Jiddu Krishnamurti
'When I met my Guru, he told me: "You are not what you take yourself to be. Find out what you are. Watch the sense 'I am', find your real Self." I obeyed him, because I trusted him. I did as he told me. All my spare time I would spend looking at myself in silence. And what a difference it made, and how soon!
My teacher told me to hold on to the sense 'I am' tenaciously and not to swerve from it even for a moment. I did my best to follow his advice and in a comparatively short time I realized within myself the truth of his teaching. All I did was to remember his teaching, his face, his words constantly. This brought an end to the mind; in the stillness of the mind I saw myself as I am - unbound.
I simply followed (my teacher's) instruction which was to focus the mind on pure being 'I am', and stay in it. I used to sit for hours together, with nothing but the 'I am' in my mind and soon peace and joy and a deep all-embracing love became my normal state. In it all disappeared - myself, my Guru, the life I lived, the world around me. Only peace remained and unfathomable silence.'
- Nisargadatta Maharaj
'The day you decide that you are more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are in the thoughts themselves - that is the day you will find your way out.'
- Michael Singer
'A quiet mind does not mean there will be no thoughts or mental movements at all, but that these will be on the surface, and you will feel your true being within, separated from them, observing but not carried away.'
- Sri Aurobindo
'If there are ripples on the surface of a lake, we cannot see the depth. Similarly unless the mind is restful, we cannot experience the harmony and union within us.'
- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
'The mind turned outwards,
results in thoughts and objects.
Turned inwards, it becomes itself
- Ramana Maharshi
'The most direct means to self-realization is to be still.'
'The Quintessence of My Teaching
You know you are. How do you know it? And with what did you know it?
This is the sum total of my Teaching needed to put you on the right track, its very quintessence.'
- Nisargadatta Maharaj
'Simply ask yourself the question;
'Am I aware?'
There is a pause, and of course you answer 'Yes'. What happened in that pause?
You became aware of being aware.
Now ask yourself that question again -
and simply stay in that pause.'
- Rupert Spira
'One such catalyst for me was Ramana Maharshi saying “we are choiceless and effortless awareness” Looking deeply into what aspects of my being were choiceless and effortless I realised the obvious which had always been the background and now became the context for everything – without any choice or effort being made at all.'
- Peter M
'There is one ultimate "I", the subject. That I-ness is borrowed by every form of life from the microbe to the human being. The sense of presence is the "I". Whatever form or identity you take, that "I" is always the same, though it is filtered through the form it embodies'
- Maury Lee
'Become conscious of being conscious. Say or think 'I am', and add nothing to it. Be aware of the stillness that follows the 'I am'. Sense your presence, the naked unveiled, unclothed beingness. It is untouched by young or old, rich or poor, good or bad, or any other attributes.'
- Ramana Maharshi
Applying ourselves to understanding what is meant by the Self or Natural State in our own experience must now become our ongoing endeavour and practice. The fire of longing for liberation should be directed at this one task and all our efforts focused on this one thing: to discover and recognise the nature of our own Self as simple presence/awareness/beingness. We need to dive ever deeper into what is being pointed to and once discovered, become more and more familiar with the territory of our own being beyond the distractions of thoughts, feelings, impressions and sensations.
There are different paths, some of which are listed below, which go into this process of investigation into the Self and the personal identity in a powerful and logical way for those who would benefit from a more formal structured learning environment.
Traditional Advaita Vedanta
A. H. Almaas' 'The Diamond Approach'
Jackson Peterson's 'Immediate Recognition' Dzogchen teachings of Tibetan Buddhism
Rupert Spira's 'Direct Path'
Pemako Buddhism Two Part Formula
Be advised though that involvement with any teaching or tradition immediately exposes you to the danger of being sidetracked by the demands placed on you by the teaching or tradition: to embrace and become familiar with the teachings and culture of the teaching/tradition and to follow the inherent structures, practices and belief systems. Your single-pointed inquiry into the Self and your precious self-sovereignty can easily be compromised.
Douglas Harding of the "Headless Way" has devised some simple, free experiments we can perform which guide us experientially, and often very quickly and directly to an encounter with our essential nature as awareness or 'seeing'. Highly recommended.
The practice of self-inquiry "Who Am I?"
"How to Practice Self Inquiry"
Dr Jeffrey Martin's courses for trying out different techniques to discover which one is most effective for you to transition to 'Fundamental Wellbeing' may also be helpful. He appears to achieve good results with his programmes and there is no teacher/student dynamic to navigate. Bear in mind he is a businessman as well as a researcher and programme developer and his offerings are heavily marketed and for profit.
Identifying the direct
felt experience of the Self
It won’t happen right away but if you’re patient and you practice regularly and diligently and with the clear intention of wanting to discover your true nature, you may begin to notice a few things during your meditation:
These are all unchanging, inherent aspects of the Self and indicate its presence within you. It’s very important to acknowledge these qualities when they arise during meditation and to recognise that they are the qualities of the Self, and not attributes of, or experiences for, the ego.
This is very important and where a great deal of misunderstanding happens.
What you are trying to do through this practice is to allow the qualities of spaciousness, calm, well-being and clarity to become more apparent and more known to you. In other words, you are allowing the qualities of the Self to become more apparent and more known to you. There are bound to be setbacks and disappointments but don’t be discouraged. Have patience and keep going. You are in the process of making the greatest and most profound discovery of your life. Don’t give up.
'Recognition of our true nature does not need studious reading of spiritual texts, years of meditation practice or deep devotion to a teacher. We need only the willingness to engage in a rigorously honest investigation into the nature of awareness itself - not an intellectual investigation, but a personal investigation into what we truly are.'
Find a method that works for you and give yourself to it wholeheartedly. Discovering and recognising your true nature beyond the personal self is the very cornerstone of coming to the end of seeking.
Don't be distracted by the myriad other
possibilities available in spiritual life. Keep this as your primary focal point and give yourself to it. There will be plenty of time when you are established in the Self to go into the depth, range and subtlety of this vast subject, but we are narrowing our focus here to what is absolutely essential and necessary in order to make a fundamental shift of identity possible.
This work is ongoing, demanding and often frustrating. You will need to draw on all your strength and persistence to keep going in the face of what can seem like little if any progress. Persevere, remain focused, and allow the powerful momentum of your habitual relationship to your experience to begin to slow down and soften, and start to reveal the wealth of peace and equanimity that lies within. It will be well worth the effort.
'The Headless Way is profoundly non-hierarchical and operates strictly peer-to-peer. It does an end run around the psychological transference that's baked into the guru-disciple/teacher-student set-up'
- Sam Blight
The greatest mistake I made during my decades of seeking was in believing that the peace and freedom found in meditation was an experience that I, the personal self/ego was having. The ego claimed these experiences of peace and freedom for itself: that I was more 'spiritual' because of them; that I was progressing on the Path because of them, and that I only needed to accrue a sufficient quantity and depth of them to become enlightened.
The revolution in consciousness occurred with the realisation that the freedom experienced in meditation was in fact my own Self, the unchanging ground of my own being and not an aspect of the ego.
This ground was revealed when the relentless distractions of the ego had sufficiently quietened down to expose what is always there - the Self or limitless awareness. This recognition of myself as limitless awareness beyond the personal self resulted in a profound shift of identity and the end of all seeking.
Why am I usually unaware of my Natural State or Self?
The inner being or consciousness is very subtle and to experience it and eventually understand that it is your true nature, you have to become very still. You have to sit very quietly and allow your busy mind to slow right down. You have to wait in a relaxed and alert way for a delicate shift to happen inside you. When you find your thoughts wandering, notice it and then bring your attention back.
Be aware of being aware
Be conscious of being conscious.
Be interested in awareness itself, instead of only being interested in and aware of the objects or content of awareness.
We have to be able to separate what we are experiencing from what it is that is aware of the experience we are having.
Discriminating between the personal identity/ego
and the Self
Once you recognise the nature of the Self in your own experience, you can start to become more and more aware of the difference between your personal self with all its drives and impulses and worries, and your true Self with its qualities of spaciousness, calm, well-being and clarity. This is an essential distinction to begin to make.
Keep making this distinction as often as you can and try to become clearer and clearer about the differences between the two ways of being.
Practice and familiarisation
We can easily see that the two dimensions of our experience are very different, in fact opposite in nature. This is very important to recognise and is the foundational understanding needed to come to the end of seeking for ourselves.
The qualities of the personal identity/ego
An underlying sense of unease, fear or anxiety
A sense of lack, or there being something missing or insufficient
Unending stream of thoughts almost always concerned with the past or future
Only temporary experiences of fulfilment
A feeling of contraction, limitation and separation
Always wanting and needing more
The qualities of the Self
The sense that nothing is missing
Peace, equanimity and clarity
Stillness, silence and unlimitedness
Self-integration and wholeness
Uncaused happiness or joy
Feeling connected to all that is
Keep using your chosen method/s and keep paying attention to your everyday inner experience until these distinctions become completely clear to you. As with all subtle and complex endeavours this process takes time and patience. Dedication to this investigation is the essential groundwork needed to succeed.
Remember that the ego will try to claim peace and stillness for itself: ‘I had a great meditation' or 'I experienced bliss'. Bliss and stillness belong to the Self, not to the ego. They are not attributes of the ego.
When you experience stillness and peace your true nature is revealed. Acknowledge it, rest in it, nurture it.
Once you have discovered (uncovered) the Self/ground of being/Awareness and can recognise the sense of peace and spaciousness that accompanies it you are well on your way to coming home to yourself, your true nature.