– A reflection on the phenomenon of identification –
A summer moment: Late in the afternoon on the porch under the grape leaves – a toast of self-baked bread with Jostaberry marmalade (from our own harvest) with yoghurt – a coffee – and late cherries (also our own), sweet as sin, spitting the pits on the lawn so Shou-Shou can jump after them. The gentle smell of the flowers is mixed with the wild aromas of forest, of wood and warm earth. A squirrel, chirping in the cedars in the background and bumble bees, working on the Hydrangeas.
A world of sensations, nothing to do with them but receive them in all their richness and be still, notice them, pay attention to them and gently refrain from adding anything to it, like more thoughts. The mind, restless as ever, running it all through the mill, insatiable, offering inexhaustible contributions to a never ending story. I let her run free but don’t pay attention. I’m not my mind. I’m not the story it so obsessively creates. I pay attention to what may enter the mind but not to what comes out – not now.
There are times when I do answer the call, when I choose to think, “go on line” and engage, when I pick up thoughts and make new ones, when I become the thinker – for a while. But not now; there is no need for it. I let it all be, I don’t reject the thoughts, that would be more thinking, I register them as impersonal phenomena, as something I’m aware of but not obligated to identify with.
Identification, what is this incredibly powerful tool, this strategy the mind is so addicted to? Identify: It comes from the Latin idem, meaning ‘same’ and entitas, meaning entity: To be or become the same.
The mind receives information provided to it by the 5 senses: Sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch – (there are actually quite a few more, like balance, temperature, like pain, time, and others; scientists keep finding more and more). It absorbs this evidence and processes it, compares and relates it to memory, screens it for known patterns and criteria, judges it, makes “sense” of it. ‘Making sense‘ means putting it into perspective, into the minds preconceived perspective, assigning meaning to it. And in this process the mind has the particular and ultimately extremely problematic attribute to kind of forget that what it comes up with is a result of its own creation, it takes it for real, it believes its own story, it identifies with it. The mind becomes what it invented. It comes up with this concept of Self as an entity separate from the outside, as the owner of experiences. The mind thinks there is a thinker when there really is only thinking; the thinker is made up, invented.
So when I dis-identify with thinking Self disappears. Thinking persists, but there is no one, no thing it belongs to anymore. What remains? What happens to the sense impressions? Who knows them? Who sees and doesn’t need a name for what is seen, what hears without any thought of sound, who smells and doesn’t immediately go: ah, this smells like this or that, what touches and feels without making a concept about the object it touches? When you seriously think about it there seems to be no answer. Who is there beyond thinking? Language obviously cannot go there. Does it exist?
There is no word for it, the mind cannot grasp it. But when you sit down and pay attention, of course, there is the voice in your head, the endless babble of the mind, but when you leave that alone, when you dis-identify from it, isn’t there something that knows, something that is aware of being? You cannot name it, but sit down and look, don’t look for something, just look – there it is, closer than close, always there, unchanging, uninvolved, unaffected by anything and yet open to everything, still but immediate, knowing but not reacting. I choose to call it awareness or consciousness. An empty word; it doesn’t really mean anything, but it points to an amazing phenomenon. People call it all kind of things, like Soul, Spirit, Higher Self, Buddha Nature, things like White Light, and even God. The moment the mind gets involved words only cause havoc.
No, awareness doesn’t exist, that’s what the mind might think, awareness is that in which existence happens. Awareness is home. Awareness watches when you act, it doesn’t tell you what to do, it’s not conscience, but it knows what you do, it watches without purpose, without agenda.
Too big words? Mind-boggling concepts! Well, that’s the mind’s opinion. I’m not my mind, I’m not my story. I am aware of the mind but also of the stillness, the peace behind it. So why do I think all these messy thoughts when I know the futility of it? You have to search in order to find out that search is not necessary, it may let you never find what you search for but eventually what you already have. You have to examine life to eventually see that the act of examination is life already. Through me life examines itself. First you have to struggle, the insight that struggle is not necessary comes through the struggle.
On a wonderful summer day I go back to my senses and leave the mind purring. It cannot know, however, I can.
Klaus July 29, 2012