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Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about I

When Somebody says “I Think, Therefore I Exist,” what Does this Person Mean by “I”?

So there is always an inference from some perception. And the inference is of something that we are very vague about. When somebody says, “I think, therefore I exist,” what does this person mean by “I”? Is he clear about what he means? And because there is inference, there is no total certainty. There might be logical certainty. There might be commonsense certainty. But there is no real, deeply felt, existential certainty. The certainty doesn't exist in inference because experiential existential certainty needs direct experience, in fact, the most direct perception and experience. The most direct perception and experience is the one of identity, when we are what we experience, when the perception is so direct that what perceives and what is perceived are the same thing. This is exactly the experience of essence. Here there is no inference from something else. It is the most direct experience. The experiencer and the experienced are the same thing. There is no separation between subject and object. The subject and the object are the same: essence.

Essence is the Only Part that is Aware of its Own Existence Directly, Intimately and with Certainty

The experience of essence as existence, the experience of “I am,” is not as if there is a subject that is the actor of existence. The “I” and the “am” are not separate. The “I am” is a unitary experience. The nature of the essence, of the real self, is existence. The “I” itself is existence. So it is more accurate to say that the part of me that is existence is present. Essence is the only part of me that actually exists, in the sense of experiencing itself as pure existence, pure presence. We have investigated the question of presence, and we have seen that presence is the presence of our essence. It is the real part in us, the part not conditioned or produced by the environment. It is our intrinsic nature. We have seen that essence is the only part that is aware of its own existence directly, intimately, and with certainty.

Exploring What You Mean When You say “I”

If we continue this investigation, we see that some of our identifications are limited by our ideas of time, and some of them are limited by our ideas of space. We use time and space to define ourselves. Is that needed? What will happen if you don’t use time and space to define yourself? If you don’t use your personal history? If you don’t use your ideas about inside, outside, big, small, and so on? What if you just become aware of the movement of restricting yourself within the body, aware of making yourself big or small, inside or outside the body? Your thoughts may be going very fast right now. Be aware of the thought process. This is not a matter of thinking. The thought process is determined by your personal history. But it is possible to be aware of what we are talking about. So if you don’t try to make up an identity by using your body, by using your feelings, thoughts, memories, or the idea of space and time, what happens? This is not a matter of knowing something by being able to name it; it’s a matter of simply being aware of what we’re talking about. You don’t need to make any decisions; you don’t need to remember anything. You don’t need any work you’ve done in the past. You don’t need anything. We are just looking at the situation in this moment. It’s not a matter of freeing yourself from anything; it’s not a matter of doing anything. It’s not a matter of having any particular experience. We’re exploring what you mean when you say “I.” Now, when we see all these things, is there still a sense of “I” left? What are you attaching the “I” to at this moment? And if you are not attaching the “I” to anything, can you see the totality of your universe—anything you’ve ever thought, felt, experienced, conceived of—all of it together? Can you see the whole universe that you take to be you?

Finding out Who You are is Essentially Finding Your Identity

You notice we use the words “I” and “self” and we think, feel, and behave as if there is something here that is our “self.” We already have a feeling or a sense that there is a selfhood, that there is a me-ness. Now we want to investigate what that sense of self is about. What is that sense of being a person, a self, an identity? What are you referring to when you say “I am,” “I want,” “I like,” “I do,” or “I don’t”? You may have had an experience in the past and felt, “That’s me.” Maybe you were right, maybe not. Even if it’s true that you recognized yourself then, perhaps now you have a different self. We want to know what you experience now. We want to be right here, right at this moment. Let’s investigate our beliefs, rather than taking them for granted. When you have experienced what you perceive as your true self, it’s not unusual to think, “I’ve experienced myself and that’s it, now I’ll be happy forever after.” Well, maybe, but we
want to know right now. Can you answer the question definitely, you yourself at this very moment, when you say, “Who am I?” One thing that can help our investigation is to connect the feeling of “I,” the feeling of self, to what is called “identity” or “identification.” Finding out who you are is essentially finding your identity. You can see the connection between identity and identification, if you look at your experience of any moment, and see that at that very moment you are identifying with something, you’re taking yourself to be something in particular. You might not be consciously aware of what you are taking yourself to be, but at any moment you are taking yourself to be something, or someone.

Identification with the Body is Powerful and Consistent

When you are meditating, for instance, who is meditating? Who is sitting at this moment? Be aware of your experience. See whether you can answer that question. What is it you attach the “I” to? Who am I that is sitting? Most likely you’ll see that you attach the “I” to your body. It’s the body that is sitting, so when you say “I am sitting,” aren’t you saying “I am the body”? You’re not taking yourself to be a feeling or a perception, because feelings don’t sit, the mind doesn’t walk. The only part that sits, walks, and moves is the body. We find that the identification with the body is powerful and consistent. It is much subtler and deeper than we usually imagine it to be. Of course, some people can’t imagine anything else—“What else could I be?” It’s not easy to disidentify from the body because all our lives we’ve been taking ourselves to be the body. I’m not saying that you need to do anything to change this; you just need to be aware that this is the case. Are you really aware that you’re taking yourself to be the body? When we say “my body,” what does the body belong to? Saying “myself” is more accurate, but what exactly does that mean? Who is it who has a body and has a self? Who are you referring to when you say “I have a body”? What is the “I”? It doesn’t make sense to say “I have an I” or “self has a self.” Is there a big self who has a small self?

It is Possible for an “I” to be Aware of the Experience of Presence

This is a mysterious perception to the normal mind of ego, which does not experience things that way. The normal mind is always an “I” aware of something, whereas the experience of presence has no subject/object dichotomy. But because it is possible for an “I” to be aware of the experience of presence, it is also possible to mistake that experience for the directexperience of presence. An “I,” for example, could be aware of the presence of essential Joy or Strength, but that would still not be a complete knowing of the experience of the presence of Essence. The latter occurs when the Joy or the Strength is aware of itself as presence. This, then, reflects the reality that the consciousness of presence is indistinguishable from the fact of presence itself. Beingness and consciousness are inseparable, are coemergent. This means that at the moment presence is present, who you are is simultaneously indistinguishable from the fact that you know you are presence by feeling, sensing, touching, tasting yourself as presence. The touching of yourself as presence is not different from the presence itself. The touch, the taste, the texture—in other words, the perception of the presence—is the presence.

Brilliancy, pg. 42

The Essential Self is the Experience of “I”; the Personal Essence is “I am”

The personal essence, the Pearl Beyond Price, however, is a development; it is something that develops out of the Soul when its center is the true self in this life. It is your actualization of your beingness here. When you experience yourself as your beingness, as your personal essence, you feel that you’ve accomplished yourself—not just yourself in the sense of knowing who you truly are, but by knowing who you truly are you start growing and developing your potential. This is the personal essence—personal, with a sense of beingness. The essential self is the experience of “I”; the personal essence is “I am”—not only my identity and my sense of who I am, but myself as a person, here in the world. That being has many skills and capacities, plus wisdom, understanding, and a certain style of life. The true self can be seen as the source, as the inner God, and the personal essence can be seen as the product or the Son of God. In Christian terminology the true self is the Holy Spirit, and the pearl is the Son. The true self is beyond time and space, but the personal essence is in time and space as embodied Being. They’re two parts of an identity that fit together.

The “I” Without the Sense of the Feeling of “I” in It

We can say “I” to refer to the self that is the absolute nature, but it’s not an “I” in the sense that it has a feeling of “I” in it. It doesn’t have a feeling of identity. It is “I” because there is nothing else to refer to when I speak. It is what speaks, and it is what does, and it is what is. When you say “I” but there is nothing else but that I, what do you say? You can’t say it isn’t “I,” because there’s nothing else. That’s the back being the “I.” You can say “I” without a feeling of “I” and without this “I” meaning some entity or circumscribed reality. I can say “I move,” “I talk,” but there is no sense of there being me talking, feeling, or doing anything. There is no self in the normal sense of the word. The Absolute is not a nothing in the sense of complete voidness. It is not passive. It’s true that it is a complete nothing, nothing there, but this nothingness has an annihilating power. It’s like explosions in every cell. So we can’t say it’s a nothing. Yet we can’t say it’s a something, for its annihilating power is that it is pure voidness, absolute absence. It is not present and it is not absent. It’s both at once. It is absolute absence and it is complete presence. So the presence of the Guest is the complete presence of absolute absence, without the presence and the absence being two things. You see what I mean when I say it’s beyond concepts? The way I am talking now no longer has rational meaning. You can have the understanding only if you get the direct sense of what I’m talking about. If you just go with your mind, with my words, no way, nothing will happen except maybe a headache.

When there is God, there is no one there who Loves God; there is just God

The experiences of devotion to God, relationship to God, union with God, connection with God, being part of God, being cells in the body of God, being God—all appear on various paths. But they all retain the sense of the presence of the self. When the self goes, there is only the seeing of God. You don’t even feel “I am being God” because there is no “I.” If you say, “I am experiencing God,” there are two, not one. If you say, “I love God,” there are you and God. When there is God, there is no one there who loves God; there is just God. There is the seeing of God and that’s it. You don’t feel that you are seeing God, that you are relating to God, that you are God; you don’t feel anything that has an “I” in it. You don’t feel anything. There is just the seeing of God, and God is all and everything. All that you can see and cannot see. If for one moment you see that there is something other than God, whether separate from God or connected to God, if for one moment you perceive that God has parts, then what you are experiencing is not the absolute oneness. You are experiencing parts. As long as you are experiencing parts, there are ego boundaries, which bring a sense of separateness, a sense of richness of possessions, and a sense of impurity.

When We Feel the Essential Identity We Feel We are being Ourselves Truly and Authentically

The Essential Identity means the identity with Essence, the identity with Being. It is the true sense of identity. When we feel the Essential Identity, when we’re being it, we feel we are being ourselves truly and authentically. And there’s a sense of identity, a singular sense of “I” that is definitely, uniquely self-existing. You’re there, present as you, without that “you” being defined by any constructed concept. There is “I,” and you know there is “I” because you are here as “I.” The point is identity, a direct sense of recognition of one’s identity without history or mind. And because the Essential Identity is the prototype of identity, it represents the soul’s capacity to be her true nature, her essential nature. It represents being the essential nature on any level. When we are the Essential Identity, there is effortlessness, lightness, simplicity, and unquestioned preciousness. It is the simplicity of being and recognizing that “Yeah, that’s who and what I am. I’m here.” This is the Essential I as an aspect on its own, as an experiential category within the essential dimension of Being. But just as in the case of all other essential aspects, it has a specific function in relation to the Diamond Guidance. That
function is to help us understand our experience through getting the point of what’s going on

When You say “I” it is Always the Absolute Saying It

So when you say, “I,” it is always the Absolute saying it. No one ever says, “I” without it being the Absolute saying it. The “I” is always uttered by the Origin. No one can say, “I” except for the Origin because of the mere fact that there is only one thing. If you really understand Holy Truth, you understand that there are not two, that duality is an illusion of the egoic mind. You might not be aware that you are the Origin when you utter the word, “I,” but nonetheless, it can only be the Origin that is saying “I.” We have a case of mistaken identity when we take the “I” to be something that our mind defines as us. When the mind defines what is “I,” we have a fake center, a superficial center, a fabricated center, which we refer to as the pea. That is the normal identity, the identity of the personality, which functions as the center of our lives, of our actions, of our experience. We may feel that we are at the center of our experience, but for most people, that center is the ego identity. When we see through this, we initially realize our center to be the Point, the Essential Self. (See Almaas, 1996.) Then we see that the Point is nothing but the reflection of Being in the mandala of appearance. To put it another way, the Essential Self is nothing but the appearance of Being when you see it in everyday life. When we see this, we become more awakened to the nature of Being, and progressively let go of our subtle concepts until we realize Being’s absolute nature. Then we know that we are not connected to the Origin; we are the Origin.

Facets of Unity, pg. 191

When “I” is the Source of All

We also realize that “everything is mine, all appearance is a manifestation of me, an extension of my existence. I am the heart of everything, the inmost essence of all. All essential aspects and dimensions express my mystery. Each is a specific manifestation of an implicit perfection, manifesting through differentiation. Each is a pure messenger from me to the soul, reminding her that I am her home and nature and self. All aspects and dimensions point to me, their inmost essence.” There is certainty in this, but this certainty is not mental conviction. It is the direct recognition of one’s nature and self. The soul recognizes that every time she uses the pronoun “I” she is referring to the absolute as subject, for she realizes with certainty that “the word ‘I’ is myself. I am always referring to my truest self whenever I say ‘I.’ But ‘I’ here is not a concept. It is a nonconceptual recognition of my nature. I am not an entity, not a form, not a center, but the source of all. There is total unification. I am the singleness in the various experiences and manifestations. There is no ego, essence, soul, aspects, various ego sectors, and so on. It is always I manifesting in one form or another. It is not an integration, not a synthesis, not even a unification. It is merely recognizing the singlehood of the self.”

Who You are Taking Yourself to be Shifts all the Time

So we see that at different times you take your body to be you, or a feeling to be you, or an essential aspect to be you. Your sense of identity keeps changing its tag. Who you are taking yourself to be shifts all the time. The content is changing, but you’re always saying “I” as if the “I” were one thing. Is it possible to be aware of the whole process? Is it possible to be aware that now I am identified with my body, now with a thought, now with a memory, now with my feeling—to be aware of the process of shifting the attachment of identity to all these things? If that is what we are doing, why not investigate it? Does that mean that there is no “I,” there is no real self? Is it just a matter of identification, just attachment to one thing after another with no continuity? If that is the case, then there is no self, no you, and no “I,” only strings of events,
attachments, and identifications. That could be the answer. But let’s see whether there are other possibilities. We are seeing that it is possible for our awareness, our consciousness, to expand to include more and more.

“I” is the label You Learned, Your Identity Tag

To know yourself is to know who you are beyond those feelings and ideas. Who you really are has nothing to do with what happened to you in the past, and who you are exists regardless of your feelings, thoughts and opinions about yourself and regardless of anyone else’s opinion about you. You must first know this if you are to know love. When I talk about “knowing yourself,” I mean to know your being, your essence. You must know what essence is, that essence is not an emotion, that your being is not a thought, not an idea, not a concept about yourself. Essence is who you truly are. The question you want to answer is, “What is the Me that is intimately Me at the depth of the heart, the Me that has nothing to do with ideas and labels?” “I” doesn’t know what love is because “I” is not your being. “I” is the label you learned, your identity tag.

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