Hannah: “My question is though I know it, I dont know if I have realized it. Why I feel this way is when I read what you are talking about consciousness and the calming effect it has on you, I feel I have not realized it. Though I am not in conflict with myself as I was earlier, I still feel angry sometimes, frustrated, dejected, have low self esteem, but also know that there is nothing to worry and there is nothing that I can do about it, and let it appear and disappear on its own. I am not in the controlling mode as I was before and everything from joy to pain I let it live its natural state and stop doing anything to really change it, and found that most of the times it just comes and goes. But why is it inspite of knowing all this have I not realized it. Why am I not experiencing that peace you talk about operating in me?”
Pete: You ask, ‘Why am I not experiencing that peace etc.’, but I say, you ARE … you MUST be … because all sentient beings experience that deep fathomless tranquility that is the background to all our endless thoughts and swirling emotions. The problem is, that all but a few don’t notice it and thus, do not feel they are experiencing it.
If you were to point most people up to the cloudless night sky and ask them what they see, they would probably tell you about the moon, and the stars and the circling planets etc. It would only be the rare individual who would remark on the vast, limitless, silent, stillness of empty space … the same infinite space in which all the heavenly bodies that can be observed by the human eye are seen.
This is strange, for the space between the stars etc. is infinitely greater than the stars themselves, yet the mind invariably seizes on the objects in outer space rather than the formless space itself.
The same, Hannah, is true of ‘inner space’ or what we observe inside our own heads.
Our thoughts and emotions are forms just like the stars in space. The stars ‘seem’ permanent and fixed, but actually the scientists tell us that they too come into being, have a life of many billions of years and then deteriorate and finally disappear altogether. The time span may be different for the coming and going of thoughts and stars but the way they function as forms is exactly the same.
Just as no sound could be distinguished without a background of silence, no form can be recognized (and experienced) without the background of infinite, formless Consciousness, or Spirit, or call it what you will.
However, just as when we go to a concert, we generally pay attention only to the sounds made by the singers or the musical instruments, and overlook the silence that makes all this possible, so when we turn our attention inwardly, we almost inevitably focus on some line of thought or emotional state. Quite often, our unbidden thoughts plunge us into strong emotions such as anger, anxiety or depression etc. and we fail entirely to notice the still, calm, non-judging background that is aware of all that is going on within.
It’s a common mistake among spiritual aspirants to suppose that by knowledge or discipline or some other means they will be able to ‘tame’ their unruly thoughts and feelings or, perhaps, get rid of them altogether, and that if this happy state can be achieved, they will be ‘enlightened’ or ‘self-realized’ at last. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
True spiritual realization is not a matter of Formlessness OR forms — Subject OR objects — but a balance or harmony of both together. This is never something to be achieved because it is always and already the case, but the MIND (which is totally preoccupied with objects or forms of one kind or another) usually distracts us from seeing this sublime reality.
You get the impression that you’re only experiencing forms and not the Formless, but I assure you that is not so … it cannot be so … you ARE experiencing your formless Essence, every waking moment, but your attention is elsewhere … on the forms in your Awareness (ie, on the thoughts, feelings, sensory perceptions etc).
Again, the ordinary person thinks they ‘have’ awareness, but the truth is that we ARE awareness ItSelf, first and foremost. All forms, in fact, the whole of our world, arises in that awareness and our untrained minds focus on the content rather than on the capacity or containment of them.
The good thing is, that these very forms, our anxious thoughts or our strong feelings or states of mind can be a means of bringing us back into balance or harmony with our sacred Essence and the deep peace of our true nature.
Just as when you look at a star in the night sky, you can then transfer your attention (without losing sight of the star) to the infinite space that surrounds it, so when you become conscious of mundane thoughts or anger or depression or low self-esteem (an odd expression — who or what is esteeming the self?) you can simple transfer your attention back to the infinite, eternal awareness that surrounds that thought or feeling.
In other words, Hannah, allow yourself to become aware again of the Awareness that has been an inviolate, ageless, constant within you ever since the Light of Consciousness dawned in your body/mind after birth.
As you put your attention on that Awareness that is NOT a form, you will begin to experience its peace … even though you may be in the midst of a stressful situation … it will be a peace beyond human understand — beyond reason — without cause.
As you keep returning your attention back to that Awareness, which is your true eternal Self, you’ll also begin to experience a quiet joy and a deepening compassion, first for the quirks and limitations of your own form, and then for the limitations and shortcomings of others. Indeed, you will begin to see, that in reality, there are no ‘others’, only different manifestations of the One … for ultimately, Consciousness, or Awareness, or God etc. etc. is all there is … there is nothing else, despite all appearances to the contrary.
This means also, that even your troubling thoughts and feelings, Hannah, arise out of, and are expressions of, the One, so they are not to be despised but recognized as the ‘play of Consciousness’ and a convenient gateway into higher consciousness.
So I come back to where I began — everything needful for ‘Self-realization’ or ‘enlightenment’ is already in place in every person — namely, spacious, formless awareness and the content of that awareness in the form of thoughts and feelings etc. Make sure your attention is evenly divided between these two dimensions and that your mind does not remain obsessed with one or the other.
Make it your spiritual practice throughout the day, to consciously switch your attention from form to the Formless and back again experiencing both fully in their turn.
After a while, if the practice is maintained, this will be come natural and instinctive. Then, when you’re well practiced, you’ll be able to hold both dimensions — forms and the Formless — in your attention at the same time and see them not as two but One. They you will have moved beyond the realm of opposites, beyond right and wrong, good and bad, spiritual and unspiritual etc. and you will resonate with wonder and delight at the ISNESS of it all and be utterly lost for words to describe what is seen.
You are so precious, Hannah, you are loved with infinite love and cherished more than you can ever know so trust with all your being in that love which will bring you through all your doubts and fears into that Light by which all other lights are seen.