The Illusion of Maya (Self) Part 1

I AM.

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I AM…

These two words, the mere fragment of a statement, and yet an all-encompassing declaration in and of itself, are the most provocative and powerful utterance in our human language.  Whatever word we choose to place after this little snippet of a sentence is usually an uninspiring and very diminutive appraisal that we each hold of ourselves, as a series of labels that we identify with and subsequently take into the world every day.  Our entire mental construct of what we think life is, how it works, our place in it, and what we are, has been taught to us through endless social conditioning; and a redundancy of messages, massaged into our psyche that we passively accept as true.

Who we think we are is relative at best because, at the level of our egoic mind, we see ourselves only through the lens of all our social conditioning.  The “conditioned” self that we tend to identify so strongly with, is only an accumulation of impressions or beliefs we’ve gathered about ourselves over the course of a lifetime and piece together as a collage of adjectives we would use to best describe ourselves.  Living at this level is to be trapped in one’s karma.  Karma is the cumulative sum of all the impressions made upon us from all of our combined experiences.  These impressions fashion the lens that we then see ourselves, others, and reality through.

From constant programming, most of us see ourselves as separate from everything that surrounds us; detached, isolated, and defined by the boundaries of this physical body we reside in.  But, that is only an illusion.  We don’t exist in isolation.  We are intimately tied into and connected to everything that surrounds us.  This separation we experience is only one aspect of the illusion of Maya (what we perceive as the “self”).

At the level of our senses, life is largely illusory.  As we interface with the external environment that surrounds us our brain interprets incoming stimuli and creates an experience within us.

The problem with relying on our perceptions is that they are very deceiving, especially in terms of trying to define what’s “real” and what’s “unreal.”

Einstein once shared the sentiment that “reality is merely an illusion . . . albeit, a very persistent one.”

Perhaps the most persistent illusion we suffer from, in what we would define as our “physical” reality, is the belief that we are this body we inhabit, living on a planet in a vast cosmos.  We hold the belief that we are alive in this body at the moment, living in this physical form, and will someday meet our demise and just “expire.”  We celebrate birth as a glorious beginning and death as a tragic end, which we forget is part of every journey.

This is an easy conclusion to arrive at in western society because our entire perspective is outbound.  Our busy lives leave little time to cultivate a much deeper understanding of who and what we are and how we are tied into this thing called “Life.”   For most, Life is a repeating pattern of redundant weekly schedules, tasks, and obligations.  Through our academic rigors, preparing us for entry into the workforce and by the stock tickers on Wall Street, we have been programmed to live Life merely at the level of functionality; waking up to alarm clocks, going to work, coming home, watching tv, going back to sleep, and hitting “repeat.”  We dutifully pay our bills, shop, and take in a football game or some other form of entertainment on the weekend so we can decompress and start all over again on Monday morning.

Society cultivates this hyper-focus on everything external to us because it’s needed in the marketplace.  Offering a vast kaleidoscope of indulges, we compulsively externalize our emotional well-being and import our feelings, through the purchase of things and experiences.

Life itself is sold to us as a product.  The marketplace is built upon the “cult of personality,” superficiality vs. substance, the promotion of our temporal existence vs. our spiritual evolution, and the constant promotion of fear, inadequacy, and insecurity, where life has been reduced down to a competitive money sport.   It keeps us shopping and looking for happiness – “out there.”  It offers countless remedies for our boredom or feelings of inadequacy, in the form of a constant barrage of celebrity endorsements and advertising always hyping products that add convenience, beauty, and style to our lives with the promise of inching us closer to “bliss.”   But bliss and satiation are unattainable, as the marketplace is constantly producing more and more to consume, new and improved versions of everything, with “planned obsolescence” in the design of everything as a rule.  Everything is outdated very quickly which always leaves us wanting the “latest-greatest” and wanting more and more.  One need look no further than the human behavior displayed on “Black Friday” or at any Apple Store on the release of the latest iPhone.  Shopping has truly become the opiate of our times.

For decades, we’ve been inculcated with messages designed to program the individual out of the individual, to devalue diversity,  and to reduce the masses down to isotypes.  Monochromatic, unidimensional, malleable worker bees and consumers trying to become what the world has deemed “acceptable.”  Programmed to think about ourselves, others, Life, and the world around us, the way it has been prescribed to us, we see reality through a fisheye lens, very narrow in focus.

As consumers, happiness is promoted as something we purchase, not something we actually become.  Happiness becomes an elusive, transient at best, and entirely external pursuit purchased in increments.  As a result, our self-image and emotional well-being are largely determined by our ability to accumulate material wealth and status symbols that convey an achieved level of success.  But, none of this says anything about who we are.

It’s unfortunate, but life comes at us pretty quick.  Pushed out of the security of the nest (home and the boundaries that define our sense of security), we’re taught from a very young age that what we “do” defines who we “are.”   This is why we pin labels on ourselves.  We’re encouraged to “find” success, happiness, love, and self-worth, as if participating in a scavenger hunt, never realizing that none of these are acquired from anything external to us.  So misguided with this seemingly ostensible perspective of life as a money grab, and that money will solve all our problems, we completely neglect the most vital aspect of living . . . “self-awareness.”

The direction we’re given is not only misleading but can have devastating, life-long, adverse effects on our sense of well-being.  We’re not encouraged to delve into the inner dimension of our being to discover what makes us, “US.”  With our focus constantly outbound, always looking for the next experience to create a desired feeling within us, our self-awareness becomes dulled to the point of becoming imperceptible.

Our essence becomes constrained by the straightjacket of our ego and its constant bantering that urges us to live only through comparison and competition.  As a result, our essence is lost to insecurity and feelings of inadequacy, buried under layers and Covered in labelslayers of a well-designed persona we’ve created to protect our vulnerable inner child; the innocent, eternally present aspect of ourselves that knew only how to be bewildered by the miracle of life, before the “been there done that,” predictability of life set in.  Our primary concept of “self” becomes our identification with our body and a series of self-applied labels, comparing ourselves to others.

It’s unfortunate, but only a short period of our life is lived from our authentic self; that part of us that existed before we were taught what to think, what to believe, and how to see things.

From birth till around the age of eight years old we have no self-awareness, no concept of “I” as something separate from everything else, much less the ability to define ourselves as “I am . . . fill in the blank.”  There is no “ego” yet.  Life during this period is completely experiential, like a dream, where time doesn’t exist.  There is no sense of fear, apprehension, expectation, or agenda.  Children live immersed in the eternal present” moment; an ability we lose as adults, where we are rarely present.  How little control we have over our mind that often is working against us.  We find ourselves drifting effortlessly into the past, ruminating on past experiences, lost in our memories or projecting ourselves into the future with fear and anxiety of the unknown with an overactive imagination that we can’t seem to turn off.

Looking into the eyes of a young child, you’ll see that most often there is no self, only an empty yet expansive presence behind the eyes.  “Essence” is all that is contained in the body of a child, and essence has no concept of time, no worries, no fear, no expectations,Baby Face no script, no ego.  For a child, nothing exists beyond the precious bubble of time or temporal experience they are involved in at any given moment.  If only that could last forever…

By the age of 6, our indoctrination into society begins.  We are placed in schools where we are taught to prepare for entry into a task-oriented business world that operates according to a very fixed schedule.  Time, something that didn’t exist for us, now becomes an integral part of our lives and something we are taught to become very acutely aware of.   For the first time, our lives are given structure, and we now have to learn how to compartmentalize time devoted to our own personal interests and the obligatory time devoted to our education and preparation for entry into the “system.”

In the classroom, we are taught vocabulary, colors, numbers, names of everything, and not only how to think, but what to think.  We exchange our imaginations for rote memory and the regurgitation of facts, most of which have no relevance to us whatsoever.

It’s unfortunate, but most of what we are taught goes unquestioned by our fledgling little minds, that simply trust that what adults are subjecting us to is in our own best interests.  Lacking any sense of discernment, our entire focus is outbound.  We’re taught that life isn’t something that “is,” it’s something we need to prepare for so we can begin participating in it.   So in preparation for our entry into life, everything has been labeled for us, defined, mapped out and explained.  As a result, we see ourselves and the world as a series of labels and never see the “essence” of anything ever again.

Ultimately, what we are being taught through our schooling process is how to become “essential,” “relevant,” and how to “compete” in the world.  We mindlessly recite our allegiance to a country before we even know what the words mean.  We quickly learn that the world is divided up into teams, and establish that a “country” is the team we belong to and something separate from every other country.  With our clever intellect, we divided reality into a never-ending list of dualistic concepts: right-wrong, good-bad, gains-losses, us-them, etc.  We’re taught to compete for good grades, compete for the best attendance, compete in sports, compete for prom court, compete for college placement, compete for jobs, compete for advancement, compete in the marketplace, and to compete against one another for not only survival but an imaginary social status that we think somehow defines us.  From this level of thinking our “ego” begins to emerge.  Our “EGO” is just a poorly designed coping mechanism we construct to hide from others the innate sense of fear we feel as we venture out into the world alone.  It’s all posturing and it’s all a bluff.  We feign confidence, when in fact, most of us are just struggling to love or even like ourselves.

Life is no longer something we are connected to and having a symbiotic relationship with, but rather something to contend with and compete with.  We see even the Earth as something to conquer, subdue, exploit, and cannibalize for the marketplace.  We become separated and detached from everything, dividing even ourselves into two entities: our essence and our persona or ego.

Our ego is an illusion, a mask, a persona or personality that evolves over the course of a lifetime by comparing ourselves to everyone we’ve ever met. We grow into this mask we wear over our consciousness.  This external image we project to the world, whether as a professional persona in the world of business or the personality we develop for our personal endeavors and relationships, creates a focus that only distorts the perception of who and what we really are . . . our “authentic self.”  We are encouraged to wear these masks so long and so often that we forget the “essence” of who we are beneath it.  As a result, living a life of casting shadows, we are provided with only a few brief glimpses of our “real self,” our “essence,” that lies beneath the veil of our ego; beyond that which we identify with as “self,” beyond name, beyond form, and beyond thinking.

changing-face-mirjam-delrueDeveloped by living in a society of endless competition, our ego is like a reflection of us in the shards of glass of a shattered mirror where each shard represents different roles we play in different environments with different people to secure something for ourselves. It might be for friendship, sex, social status, entertainment, a job, self-preservation, or a whole host of other reasons.

Though it occurs at an almost entirely sub-conscious level, we tend to place people in our lives in the way that is most self-serving for us and meets our own self-interests.  Instinctively seeking those experiences that provide us with pleasure vs those that elicit negative feelings, those we call “friends” are those who validate us, our beliefs, perspectives, and opinions because their belief systems and interests align with ours the most.  By contrast, we tend to steer clear of people whose opinions and perspectives are different from ours.  As a result, we become polarized, avoiding those that don’t agree with us.  “Birds of a feather . . . “

Evolving from the most primordial part of our brain that only operates at the level of survival, our ego is constantly seeking attention on some level from others.  Our ego externalizes our pursuit of happiness and divorces us from our natural state.  It’s always importing and gathering acceptance from others.  Without it, our ego collapses in on itself.  It’s what drives us to seek validation, inclusion, and the company of others.

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It’s our need to feel a sense of belonging that pushes us to cave into group mentality and the security it provides us.  This is why humans are inherently social and generally timid about expressing their own ideas that may be “counter-culture” or different from what most would consider “mainstream” or “consensus.”  Self-expression, once a highly revered trait, is almost seen as audacious and rebellious.  But, ask yourself, can you think of anyone you admire that isn’t “different,” or “weird?”  Who reveres normalcy?

Seeking inclusion, whether we realize it or not, we place people in our lives to make our lives work, and in building our networks of friends and acquaintances, our ego is very strategic in keeping checks and balances of what people like about us and what they don’t.  It’s what through countless positive and negative interactions fashions us into a version of ourselves that projects a persona that we think will be most appealing to others.

Operating just below the level of our cognition, our ego is made up of a series of redundant patterns of behavior that has produced gains for us.  Weighing out the payoff of choosing to interact within a framework of learned social behaviors against our need for self-expression and having a voice all our own, we are constantly governing our behavior between the two tidal forces: the ego and our essence.  Our ego, reinforced with every positive gain, getting us what we want, only chips away at our essence by constantly encouraging us to develop a persona which makes us more socially acceptable in the eyes of others.

We delude ourselves with our ego because it creates a false image of ourselves by fragmenting us into countless categories of comparison with everyone else.  From the perspective of our ego, we never see ourselves as “whole” but instead, always see ourselves as lacking something that always makes us less than whole and inadequate.  From this perspective, we can only live with the constant fear that we don’t measure up.  We’re never good-looking enough, charismatic enough, likable enough, or lovable enough.  The bottom line?  We’re never “good enough!”  And that is the tragedy of an overactive ego.  This inadequacy is learned, not inherent, because we didn’t possess it as children.

As we enter our formative years, from early adolescence into our 20s, two decades of exposure to endless corporate propaganda urging us to shop and television promoting images and messages just below the level of cognition what’s acceptable and what’s not, our perception of “reality,” is solidified.

Catering only to the “egoic mind,” our indoctrination into society is complete.  What’s been stolen from us, is awareness, self-acceptance, and self-love.  Our entire “experience” of life is that of being something that we’re immersed in, an experience we’re having as a physical being.  Rather than being something we’re a part of, it’s something separate from us.  It is something that’s happening to us or around us and entirely external.

In a very insidious way, we’re taught to “work hard,” “life is what you make of it,” and it’s measured in dollars and cents.  In essence, we’re taught to be consumers.  The value of our life is found through attainment.   Our “self-image” becomes a projection.  It’s just that; the image we hold of ourselves and project to others.  It’s largely purchased.  With this external focus, not only our happiness but life itself is also purchased in increments.  We buy life and the experiences we have by going to work.  Life becomes a series of diversion tactics, designed to keep our heads emotionally “above water” and our fears and feelings of being inadequate at bay.

As consumers, we become anything but “present” because, having embraced the idea that happiness is just another purchase away, we are always hoping to import happiness from an external source.  As a result, we’re never “present.”  Without “presence of mind,” we’re never living “mindfully aware” of the moment, the NOW, that we’re immersed in, but instead lost in our thoughts and to do lists.  As a result, we live with very little self-awareness, convinced our emotional state is entirely circumstantial and something we have little control over.

In such a competitive society, we become almost entirely identified with attainment, and materialism, and the adornment, image, and preservation of our body.  Why?  Because society has no use of one’s soul, it can exploit our bodies, so it keeps us focused on the external with our primary focus being on our bodies.

So what is this body of ours?  Let’s see if we can deconstruct our hyper-fixation on our body as what we think of as being “US.”

Our body is a very sophisticated technology with an intelligence completely separate from our cognitive awareness of it.  Every cell, every organ, and every tissue in our body possesses an intelligence, a software so to speak, that is performing an unimaginable number of very complex processes and activities that we are completely unaware of.   We delude ourselves in thinking, we’re running the machine; it’s running itself independent of any and all cognitive awareness on our part.

Made entirely from elements of Earth, it takes everything we eat or drink (which also comes from the Earth) and transforms it into the body that we temporarily inhabit, again, which is merely a living piece of the Earth.   We aren’t living in these physical bodies, we’re “LIFE,” simply passing for a short while through and animating these bodies of ours.  Just as birth is a passageway, death also is simply a passing through point; a doorway.  There are no endings, only transitions . . .

To expand upon that, if you’re reading this, my suspicion is that right now, you think of yourself as being “alive.”  But, what does it mean to think you’re alive right now and will someday die?  That’s an understandable perspective if we think that we ARE the body, but, consider for a moment that you’re neither dead nor alive.  You’re both in every moment!

When we are born, what is the very first thing we do?  We inhale “the physical plane.”  And, when we die, what is the last thing we do?  We exhale “releasing ourselves from the physical plane.”

Every breath in between contains both life and death.  We inhale the life-giving properties of oxygen, O2, and exhale toxic carbon dioxide, CO2, which is fatal in elevated doses; so much so, that the rate of our breathing is not based on our body’s need for O2 but rather the body’s need to rid itself of CO2 in our bloodstream.  This is why when you exercise there is a more laborious, forced nature to your exhaling than there is to the effort of inhaling.

Once here, in the physical plane, we (that is to say, our bodies), exist along a continuum between the life and death of our “body,” but not of “ourselves.”   In any given moment, our body exists only as a ratio of percentages that include life and death, as we move along this continuum between birth and the demise of our physical body.

With the severing of the umbilicus connecting us to our mother, we are locked into our bodies.  We will never be more alive!  Growing at an alarming rate our cells propagate by dividing and multiplying much faster than they’re dying.  With only so much real estate to occupy in these tiny bodies we’ve put on, all those new accumulating cells continue adding to our mass.  As a result, we begin growing up.  This gathering of mass, weight, and height continues until around the age of  18 – 21 where we hit a break even, and from then until around 25 years of age, we’re in a holding pattern in which our cells are dying at about the same rate our body is producing new ones.  From 25 on, our body, at the pinnacle of its growth cycle, begins to go into decline.  Now, our cells begin to degenerate and die off faster than the body can repair or replace them.  Simply put, we begin to age.

In short, from birth until around 25 years of age we grow up; from 25 on we simply grow old, with every breath along our journey containing both life and death.  Again, in the physical sense of our body, we’re neither living nor dead, we’re both.

Just as one cannot see light, but rather only what stops or reflects light, we cannot see LIFE, only what contains it.   In other words, we cannot see our essence.  We cannot see the living entity inside animating this body we’re leasing.   We, at our essence, exist only as a conscious awareness, (the seat of which has never been found anywhere in the human body) and have always existed.  Birth and death are only properties of form, as everything in the physical plane is in endless transition, ever-changing, but we, in our essence, are formless with no beginning and no end.  As a living entity, we ARE life, a pinpoint of consciousness, or if you like, awareness, simply passing through and temporarily contained in these vehicles called a human body.

Made up of only 11 elements (out of the 148 known elements), all of which come from the Earth, we are just a scoop of the Earth held together for a brief period of time by our breath.  Nothing more.  Our bodies are on loan; we borrow them from the Earth, temporarily animating them, and when we depart from the physical plane the Earth will reclaim them.  The human body is simply a medium that allows life to pass through it.  They are ours,” but they are not US.”

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Our “current” physical state is just one aspect of ourselves, a shell, an outer dimension hiding a much deeper and far more expansive part of ourselves that exists beyond the boundaries of time and space and beyond form.

Thanks to modern physics and our recent understanding of thermodynamics, we now know energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be converted from one form to another.   In other words, all the energy in the universe that exists is all the energy that has ever existed and ever will exist.  All that is, has been part of the known universe since its inception.  All the energy, life, and even consciousness contained within our body has been part of this physical universe since its inception.  In that sense, the body you are currently borrowing is as old as the universe itself.  Ponder that for a moment.   The energy contained in every atom of your body is 13.7 billion years old.

With bodies made up of elements pulled directly from the Earth, which is an amalgamation of elements that coalesced from the dust-like remains of burnt out stars, we are quite literally made entirely of stardust, and stars were woven out of the fabric of the universe itself.  We’re not living in the universe, we ARE the living universe!

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Earlier I stated that at the level of our senses our perceptions are deceiving?  Advances in physics, and more recently quantum physics, in drilling down into the smallest units of physical matter, discovered something quite unexpected –  there is no “physical reality” at least not in the sense that we perceive it as “physical” or “real.”

What they discovered is that our physical reality is not made up of – how do I put this? –  “physical matter,” and an emptiness between molecules and between stars, but rather exhibits the characteristics of a vast sea of intertwining fields of energy in which everything we perceived as physical is in fact just a dense field of energy that vibrates at a frequency commensurate with our 5 senses.  In other words, we only perceive it as “real” because we can observe it and “experience” it through our five sense organs.  But how can we trust our senses as a reliable marker for what is real and what is not?  So limited are our 5 senses, it’s like looking through a keyhole and trying to surmise what is in every room of a 150 story building.

Of all the fields of energy that exists, we, as humans, perceive less than 1% (0.0035% to be exact) of them with our 5 senses. More than 99.6% of the fabric of this universe is imperceptible to us through our senses organs, and yet we’re convinced that what we can experience through our senses is all that’s “real” – and believe there is no other reality or dimension to our being other than what we can sense.

So, what is “REAL?”  When we observe the fabric of reality at the quantum level, more and more evidence seems to point to the idea that the entire universe is a conscious field of energy, a canvass of sorts, that we as individuals, and collectively as an aggregation of sentient beings, project our conscious awareness onto, which creates the experiences that we have.  In other words, we each are the center and the circumference of all of our experiences and are the center of our “own” universe.  Our “realities” simply overlap with one another’s.

Here’s the odd part.  Nothing, in reality, seems to exist until we consciously project our awareness onto it.  In other words, nothing exists in our reality until we become consciously aware of it.

Just as Einstein stated, that reality is just an illusion, what if what we think of as “reality” is really just another dream state, another form of consciousness, but in high definition?

Though some may think of that as straining the threads of credulity, outside of the fact the during our waking state, things tend to be more vivid and clear, ask yourself, “is reality really that different from our dream state?”  In a dream state, we see, yet without employing the use of eyes.  We hear, yet without employing the use of ears.  We taste things, but what are we tasting with?  We engage in dialogue with others, experience tactile sensations, even sensations such as moving or falling.   In our dreams, we experience all our same emotions and experience virtually every perception we experience in “reality” and yet dismiss it as an unreal fabrication of the subconscious mind.

What if “reality” is simply a conscious projection, just as quantum physics is implying it is?  Far fetched?  For most of us, that’s a leap perhaps because we’ve never taken the time to consider what we really are beneath the surface.  That may all be slowly changing.  In the last ten years, research into states of consciousness has had a bit of a resurgence or what could be described as a new renaissance, as scientific inquiry in the field of psychedelics is revealing more and more mysteries of the human mind.

After a surge of very promising clinical research into psychedelics (a term meaning “mind manifesting”) from the 1950s and 60s, showing so much promise in treating depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia, recreational abuse of psychedelics created both political backlash and public outcry demanding their discontinuance, forced the research to cease and to be abandoned by 1965.  For four decades all the wonderful findings gathered had all but been lost.  But, in the early 2000s, thanks to the tenacity and groundwork laid by a tremendous team of scientists from multiple disciplines, the Federal Government allowed research to resume, and what we’ve learned about the human mind, has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Used for thousands of years, it is well known that compounds such as psilocybin, derived from mushrooms, as well other psychedelics such as LSD and ayahuasca (often referred to as “the God drug”), create what can only be described a “mystical experiences” – typically described as the dissolution of one’s ego followed by a sense of losing all identification with one’s body, and a merging with nature and the surrounding universe.  A sense of being connected to everything that is.

Those that have taken the deep dive into what we casually and even within the halls of academia refer to as a “trip,” report feeling flooded with love, beauty, and peace beyond anything they could imagine being possible.  They all come back to their baseline level of consciousness, suffering from the same ineffability; a complete inability to describe what they experienced.   They emerge from the experiences with unshakable convictions, the most important of which, is that ALL participants are sure beyond a doubt, that what they experienced was not at all “just a figment of their imagination.”   They felt very strongly that these experience “opened portals of perception” to other dimensions of reality, but in no way feel their experiences were hallucinatory.

It’s easy to hold to the belief that we are living “IN” the universe, when in fact, all the evidence points to the idea that not only did we emerged from it, we are enmeshed with it the way a drop of water dissolves into and becomes one with the ocean.

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As observers looking out from behind these eyes, we delude ourselves by clinging to the belief that we are separate from the universe, that we are “here” in these bodies, and life is “out there,” as something external to ourselves.  But, “THERE” is a devious trick of the mind.  The mind always makes us interested in things far away, over “there” so we can be lead from here to there.  Our attention is always wandering to another place, another person, another thing, another time.  As a result, we are never “HERE” and almost always elsewhere, lost in the capricious nature of our thoughts.

In India, there is an ancient proverb – diya tale andhera– which means “there is darkness under the lamp.”  A lamp provides light that can fill an entire room and yet right underneath of it lies darkness.  As is the case with man.  We are capable of seeing all that surrounds us but incapable of seeing ourselves, who and what we really are.  We delude ourselves thinking life is “out there” and worse yet, that we are separate from it.

Why would I say something as preposterous as “life isn’t ‘out there’?”  Consider for a moment that you have never “experienced” anything outside of yourself.

Sadhguru, an eastern guru (teacher) noted,

“Whatever you look at, you see from within yourself (from inside yourself looking out).  Whatever you hear, you hear from within yourself.  Where have you seen the whole world?  Within yourself.  Have you EVER experienced anything from outside of yourself?  

EVERYTHING that has ever happened to you is only experienced from within you:  Darkness and Light happen within you.  Pain and pleasure happen within you.  Joy and misery happen within you.  Have you ever experienced anything from outside of yourself?  No.”

“So the question is, what happens within you and who should determine how it happens?  Someone else?  “WE” determine what happens within us.  We alone determine how we experience life. To believe otherwise is the ultimate form of slavery and means how we feel will always be determined by other’s choices.”

                                                                                                         – Isha Foundation Goalcast

Though many reading this may feel insulated from the world “out there” and from others, sometimes creating feelings of loneliness and being all alone, we are never alone.  This is merely a story our ego has created by living through constant comparison.  It’s a failure to see our connection to everything we are a part of that leaves us feeling isolated, alienated, separate and alone.  Seeing this connection brings an unceasing joy.  It helps to see that we exist, we always have, and we always will.  So, enjoy the journey because the journey has no purpose.  The journey is the purpose!   Every experience we have is only lending itself to the evolution of our consciousness because everything is our teacher.

“Death is not the opposite of life.  Life has no opposite.  The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.” – Eckart Tolle.

We, like everything else in the physical plane, are a unique, short-lived manifestation of the universe, much like waves on the surface of the ocean are an extension of the ocean itself.

Each individual wave on the ocean’s surface represents a discrete and uniquely individual event that is separate from every other wave on the surface of the ocean.  Like us, a wave has a brief and distinctly separate life cycle from every other wave, but at the same time is connected to every other wave, because below that surface they all arise from the same ocean.  Every wave emerges from the same source, the ocean, and each wave “IS” the ocean.

So it is with each individual’s life in this “physical” plane.  Though appearing on the surface to be separate from all other waves of expression (physical expressions of the universe) that arose from the source field and give rise to the physical universe, (in the form of people, animals, plants, planets, stars, etc.) on a deeper level, woven out of the fabric of the universe itself, we are all ONE with the universe because, we ARE the universe.  Each one of us is intimately tied into this vast sea of intertwining fields of energy we call the universe because we ARE the universe, just as each wave on the surface of the ocean IS the ocean.  We have all emerged from the same source, the same sea of energy, as we all came forth from something “formless” into something taking on or congealing into a well defined “form.” 

It may be a bit of a mental catapult, but if you can think of the universe as a vast sea of invisible, formless energy, where non-physical fields of energy coalesce and condense into physical matter, we take on form much the way water vapor, imperceptible to the eye, condenses to form clouds, and ultimately rain and various other forms of precipitation.  Likewise, everything with “form” in the physical universe, including our bodies, is merely an extension of the same “formless,” imperceptible ocean of energy that gave rise to the physical universe itself and everything in it.

Everything that exists is just variations on a theme; a different wave of consolidated energy in the form of a human, a different physical expression of the original “source energy” or “source field,” but nonetheless all emerging from the same source, the same sea of energy as it emerged from something formless, nebulous, and intangible, into something perceptible and with form.

Just as a drop of rain, or a dewdrop on a leaf or a blade of grass, is formed by the condensation of moisture in the air, the moisture it’s pulling out of the air ultimately came from the ocean . . . for a span of time, it’s separate from its source, the ocean, but it is the source, the ocean, and will someday return to its source, the ocean.

John Lennon glimpsed this idea when in the song, I AM THE WALRUS by the Beatles, he wrote, “I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together…”

He understood that we’re all connected and we are all one.

What we are is something that cannot be defined, only defiled by attempts to define it.  These labels we pin on ourselves are the illusion of MAYA; a false image.  This self-perception we have of ourselves is only an illusion that exists in relation to everything else we come in contact with or experience.  This shell that we hide behind has been constructed over the course of our life and is nothing more than an accumulation of impressions that have been made upon us.  It’s a collage of labels we identify with and pin to ourselves, believing the labels themselves give context to who we are.  They’re all illusions of course.  None of the labels we use to proclaim who or what we are can ever define what we truly are.

Because of the way we’ve structure society, we’re turned inside-out.  Over time we slowly lose the intimate relationship we’re having with ourself.  We become oblivious of our connection to everything surrounding us, seeing ourselves in the context of comparison to everyone else.

 

So why is it important to really understand who we are?

How we see ourselves is ultimately how we see the world we navigate through day after day.  It colors our interpretation of everything and therefore contributes to the world we collectively create together as we interact with one another and every living thing on this beautiful planet of ours.  We either see ourselves as separate from the whole of existence or a beautiful expression of it and intimately woven both into and out of it.  If we see ourselves as the latter then everything we do is viewed with a sense of inclusion, not exclusion.  It’s what creates a sense of community; not just a community of people, but a community of all living things.  Why do I believe that the latter statement is so important?

“Everything we do affects the whole of existence.”  There is no such thing as a benign act.  This is very important to understand, because the more we connect with and understand ourselves, the more we understand our connection to others, the environment, the planet as a whole, and the world we live in.  The world as it is is only a reflection of how we see ourselves as individuals and collectively as a community.

The delicate “web of life” that sustains all of us is such that there is an extraordinary “inter-connectedness” to everything.   Nature abhors a vacuum, and so as a consequence of its flawless design, nothing in nature is “independent!”  Instead, every thread in the fabric of nature is “interdependent” with each and every living and non-living thing relying on the other for its continued existence.  Every living thing is contributing to your existence so that you may live.

Something to keep in mind when one considers the world that we’ve divided up into countries, states, politics, social strata, class distinction, race, religion, ethnicity, and so on.  All these distinctions leave us feeling disconnected and cut off from one another.

So then, why can’t we feel this connection to EVERYTHING?

It’s our identification with everything material that leads us to believe there is nothing beyond what we can perceive with our five senses, and even if there is, we tell ourselves, we don’t have time to think about all that nonsense.

It’s fascinating to me that we live in a world where we are surrounded by science and technology that can detect all kinds of things that lie beyond what can be perceived by our senses, and yet we still continue to hold the belief that we are our bodies and there is no deeper reality than what we experience on the most superficial level with our five senses.  We’re left thinking this is all there is and that’s frightening.  So, through the ages, we created elaborate myths to quell our fears.

Religion, in a very futile sense, tries to bridge the gap between the ethereal realms and the “here and now,” but, religion is insufficient at soothing our fears of the unknown and what lies beyond because one doesn’t practice religion, it’s only a one hour segment of most believer’s week.  Its entire focus is outbound, dividing creation from its creator, when in fact the two are completely indivisible. It’s predicated on a dogma that is archaic and non-sensical.  Its ritualized, rehearsed, redundant mental conjecture, which requires very little to no thought or self-discovery, nor does it require a peering into the abyss because the answers are all provided in advance.  It doesn’t advocate an inward journey but rather an external projection to connect with a divine entity, “out there” beyond the physical realm.

Before the age of technology and all the countless diversions from one’s self that come with it, men had accessed a much deeper reality.  The ancient wisdom of countless sages who penetrated the veil of this physical reality by going beyond “mind” and “thought” has been almost entirely forgotten and replaced by an epidemic of amnesia, an unknowing of who and what we truly are.

We in the western world, as opposed to those in the eastern world, have chosen an institutionalized, somewhat spoon fed way of thinking (or lack thereof) and seeing ourselves and the world that surrounds us, over a much deeper and profound knowledge discovered by Buddha and other ascended  masters, that lies beyond the wellspring of thoughts that are constantly bubbling up inside us.  We have divided ourselves into our essence and our persona by dissociating with our true essence and replacing it with a surface personality, with an ego, and countless societal labels, distractions, and technology.

Buddha said, in the Kalama Sutra, “in order to ascertain the truth, one must doubt ALL traditions, scriptures, teachings, and all the content of one’s mind and senses.”

Truth and essence lie beyond all such things; beyond our persona, beyond thinking, beyond the mind.  In stillness, we find ourselves by discovering there is no “self.”  That may be bothersome to some, but I for one take comfort in knowing I’m connected to everything, that I have no beginning and no end, that I’m part of a whole, that I’m limitless, eternal, and exist both within and without.

More to come . . .

 

2 Comments on “The Illusion of Maya (Self) Part 1

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