Where is this self that demands so much time and attention, fixing and cajoling, encouraging and pampering? Where is this self of tragedy and drama, soap opera and love song? Is it only a phantom -- merely a stream of thoughts and sense impressions triggering memories and habits, hopes and fears? We want to find out because, real or not, we serve it with our time and attention.
And so we return to the purpose and strategy of our exercises -- reduce the attachment to the idea of our self we refer to when we say "I" and instead turn our attention toward our self as the perceiver -- a point of self-conscious awareness ( see There Is a Beauty With You #4: Sculpting Tools For Freeing the Angel Within ).
Exercise: In this exercise we will turn our attention to the inside of our head and to our brain. Here is the location of the idea we refer to when we say "I". Let's look for it and see its reality.
Never do this particular exercise while you are driving or performing any task demanding your immediate response. A podcast of this exercise will soon be available.
Intention: The intention of this exercise is to strengthen the direct insight and experience of being a point of silent, conscious awareness, while at the same time weakening our identification with the idea of our self referred to when we say "I".
Silence: Become conscious of the location of yourself behind your eyes looking out at the world around you. See yourself inside your head looking out through your eyes ( see previous exercise: There Is a Beauty Within You #6: Consciously Being Awareness Carried Within a Body)
Stay focused on being inside your head behind your eyes. Now instead of looking out through your eyes, shift your focus and look at the back of your eyes. See the light streaming in from the outside. Stay here a moment looking from the inside of your head at the back of your eye balls. Now turn your attention to the inside surface of your head. See the walls of your head. Notice the ridges in the bone. See the curve of the head from the inside. The light streaming in through your eye sockets is filling the inside of your head with light.
Now focus on your brain. Notice how it fills the inside of your head. See the gray folds and grooves of your brain. Your brain is covered in a clear cerebral fluid completely filling your head at this very moment. Be aware of having a head filled with a brain.
Next turn you attention to yourself as a point of silent awareness in the middle of your head. You are aware of all of this. Be a point of silent awareness looking out through your eyes, listening with your ears, using a brain and body to sense and navigate the world around you. Be here as long as you are comfortable. When you find yourself losing this focus gently renew your intention by visualizing being a point of silent awareness in the center of your head filled with a brain.
Inquiry: Now let me pose some questions to you. Where was the self you refer to when saying "I"? There was awareness. But what else did you find? Only the gray folds and grooves of the brain bathed in clear, water-like cerebral fluid. What did you experience? Being a point of awareness.
Let's try some standard phrases and see how they sound now. "You hurt me by saying that!" Who was hurt? "I demand respect." Who is demanding respect? "I am not good enough." Who is not good enough? The brain cells? The neurons within your brain? The electro-chemical reactions between the neurons? Where is this self we refer to when we say, "I"? What is its reality?
Intention Renewal: Allow the intention of this exercise to continue. Give this insight and experience time to deepen. Allow yourself to be a point of silent, conscious awareness using a brain and body to sense and navigate the world around you. Practice this exercise during your everyday activities, especially during those moments of stress and anxiety. Simply focus on being awareness.
Service: The wants and needs, priorities and concerns of our ego fill up our day, but what becomes of our self as a point of awareness? Allow yourself to experience simply being in the world, not as a self, but as awareness. Try serving awareness with your time and attention. Unlike our ego, our awareness is in touch with a universe grounded in compassion and bliss. See what it is like. Be available. Wait. Listen. Watch. You might find yourself engaged in simple acts of friendliness or kindness, or perhaps find yourself feeling a certain peace or happiness. But don't force it, just be available and aware; be a simple, conscious point of awareness.
Background Reading: Talks with Ramana Mahrashi - On Realizing Abiding Peace and Happiness, Inner Directions Publishing, 2001, (www.InnerDirections.org ).