There are basically two possibilities open to us at any moment when a situation like this arises. Am I going to respond on behalf of a separate entity - or - am I going to respond as if I was this aware presence? Those are the two basic choices. A train of thought or a reaction or a response to a situation comes up and at any moment you’re free to say to yourself, ‘This train of thought and activity that I’m now engaged in, is it dependent upon the belief and feeling that I’m a separate entity – or – is it based on the understanding that I am open, transparent presence, and therefore, the so-called other is also that?’ And the answer to that question is always clear. So that’s the question.
Or maybe you find yourself after ten minutes down the line in a full-blown reaction about something and suddenly you think, ‘Oh, hang on.’ Then, you’re at the crossroads. Are you going to carry on? What is the deep feeling-understanding that is motivating your thoughts and your behavior at that moment? Is it coming from the belief that I’m a separate self – or – is it coming from the felt understanding that I am this inherently peaceful, free, aware presence, and therefore that the so-called other is also that? You have a choice then. Which way are you going to go?
The way that we choose radically changes the situation. It doesn’t mean to say that it magically clears up the issue. No. That may take time to resolve. But if we become accustomed to being this aware presence, instead of pretending that we’re a separate entity, to take our stand as that (aware presence), it just becomes more and more natural, just as in the past it was natural to us to take our stand as a separate entity. And the world strangely, in a way magically, the world reflects whichever position we choose. If we choose the position of a separate entity, somehow our experience in the world will confirm to us, will support that position, that belief. It will seem to confirm that the position we are taking is true. But magically, if we take the position, if we abide as this presence, if we live as that, think and feel from that, act and relate from that, the very same world, the apparently same world confirms that our feeling-understanding is true. That’s the beauty of it.
There’s really no such thing as ‘theoretical understanding’. There’s either understanding, or there’s belief. There’s really no such thing as a theoretical understanding that 2+2=4. You either understand it or you believe it equals 5. So understanding is never theoretical. In fact, understanding doesn’t take place in the mind. So either we understand, which means we have seen in our own experience that there is no separate inside self, or we believe that that is true because we have read it, or we have an intuition that it is true but may not have made it our own experience yet. So there’s no problem with any of those positions.
We may have a taste, it seems very clear what we are not. It becomes obvious to us that we are not a separate inside self. The reactions, thoughts, activities that we have based on the inside self seem so absurd. And then, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, two days later we find ourselves acting along the same old lines, betraying our deep feeling of being a separate self. So at that moment, whenever the invitation is presented, we stop and say ‘Hang on, am I this separate self?’ Now to begin with, we may have to slowly trace our way back. We may have to go through the kind of exploration I went over earlier: exploring my thoughts ‘I’m not my thought’; exploring my body ‘No, I’m not my body’ … and this may take time. We may have to, as it were, walk ourselves back, take ourselves by the hand and walk ourselves all the way back to ourself till it becomes ‘Yes! It’s so obvious, I’m not a separate self. I am this presence of awareness which knows these thoughts and images.’ Then, it becomes our experience, we begin to recognize it. Something in us goes ‘Yes!’ And the old habits of thinking and feeling peter out.
Then, we find ourselves involved, we get completely caught-up, we seem to lose this experiential understanding. Our self seems to get covered over again. We seem trapped inside the body-mind again. Off we go again down a train of reactivity and whatever it is, until again the invitation comes up ‘Wait! Hang on a minute. I’m acting and feeling on behalf of a separate self. Am I that separate self? So this time as we trace ourselves back – we’ve been here now several times – it doesn’t take three quarters of an hour, it takes two minutes. And then, after a while, we find the invitation comes (snaps his fingers), and as the invitation comes, the sense of being a separate entity just collapses, there’s no more inquiring left. Because we’ve been there so many times, we truly understand. So then the old habits of thinking and feeling on behalf of the separate self rise up, they’re seen to be empty of a real separate entity, and they just drop. And this leaves us more and more in our true nature, or rather, as our true nature of presence. When I say more and more, it’s not quite right because it’s not happening in time, but for longer and longer periods of time, we find ourselves abiding as presence, and less and less things seem to pull us out. The kind of thoughts and feelings and situations that would previously have immediately have precipitated the sense of separation, they no longer have the power that they used to. Maybe just the beginnings of an old habit would rise up and poof it just peters out. And we just find ourselves naturally abiding more and more as this presence of awareness. And it becomes experientially obvious that in fact that we were always that. It’s not that we suddenly become that, we were always that, we just failed to notice it. And it cannot be disturbed, even when it seems that we’ve been taken out, that’s only for thought, only for imagination, it’s an imaginary self that goes off down the road of separation. Our true self never goes anywhere, it’s always just peacefully at home. It becomes clearer. We laugh at ourselves, the silliness of our separate self.
Iain : What do you find are the biggest obstacles to people finding who they truly are?
Rupert Spira : The belief, and the subsequent feeling, that we are something other than this presence of awareness. All obstacles are really a variation on that one obstacle. It’s just a simple, childish belief that we all have, that what I am is a cluster of thoughts, and images, and feelings, and memories, coupled together with a series of sensations that make this amalgam, this dense, deep entity made out of all these thoughts, and images, and feelings. The belief that that’s what I am – it all comes down to that. All our problems, all our psychological problems, are problems of the imaginary self. If they’re traced back to their origin, it always comes down to mistaking ourselves for a cluster of thoughts, images and sensations. If we can call it an obstacle, that is the only obstacle. It’s that simple. Of course the ways that obstacle expresses itself may be colored differently in different people. But it’s always the same obstacle.
And at a certain stage, we see that clearly in ourselves. We see that spiritual life is not complex. It’s not about lots of different ideas, lots of different experiences, it’s really about one thing. And when this becomes clear, it kind of focuses our interest and our love for the truth. ‘What am I really?’ And ‘What is the nature of this self that I am - this aware presence that I am?’ And if we go deeply into it, we find that its nature is pure openness, peace, lack of resistance - which is another word for happiness. And then we realize at some point, all I ever longed for in my life, when I was out in the world searching for objects, situations, relationships – all I was searching for was happiness, was my own being. This topic is not just confined to the few thousand people interested in non-duality, everybody, everybody, all six billion of us seek it. If we believe we’re a separate entity, there’s no such thing as a separate entity that is not in search. In fact, a separate entity is not an entity. It is an activity of resisting what is, and seeking what is not. So a separate entity is an activity of seeking. That is unavoidable.
And what we are seeking, is always the same thing. It’s the dissolution of separation. The dissolution of the apparent entity that is seeking. That’s all we are seeking, all of us. Whether we call that peace, happiness, a new relationship, it doesn’t matter what we call it, but it’s the simple intimacy of our own being. That’s all we long for. As soon as we feel we’re a separate entity, the peace and the happiness that are innate in our own being is veiled. It doesn’t disappear but it seems to be veiled. And therefore, the separate entity that we imagine ourselves to be is by definition unhappy. Happiness seems not to be present. And hence the separate self is always on the search out there in the world for happiness. And our culture says to us ‘You’re unhappy. The way to get happy is to go after this series of objects.’ Our culture is bombarding us saying ‘If you do this, if you acquire this in the realm of the body, the mind, or the world, you will get happiness, you will get love, you will get peace.’ That’s the message that is being spoon-fed to us 24/7 in our culture. It’s just a mistake. It’s just not true. We all know it’s not true otherwise the search would at some stage come to an end. We get the object we want, everyone sooner or later gets the drink, the relationship, the job … and then we’d be happy. Does it work? No. The search goes on forever. It doesn’t work. Someone should ring the bell. Our culture has so much invested in this search, invested in our staying separate entities that there’s a tremendous resistance to this of course in our culture and of course individually.
Although we long for this, it’s the thing we long for most of all, it’s also the thing we fear most of all. It’s like the moth attracted to the flame. All the moth wants is the flame. But the only thing the moth cannot experience is the flame, because the moment it touches it, its only way of knowing it is to die and become the flame. So the search for happiness is like that. It’s all we long for, happiness, love, peace, but there’s a terrific resistance in use as well. Because in order to do that, everything we imagine ourself to be has to die, has to dissolve. And for that reason (he clutches his chest). And people very often experience this in intimacy, it’s very common in intimate relationships you approach intimacy, and at the last moment you say ‘No. I don’t want to die’. And so there’s this play – this desire for happiness, and the fear of happiness, the fear of the dissolution of separation repeats itself in cycles until it’s either pointed out to us or we spontaneously come to it on our own. What we long for can never be found in the realm of the mind, the body or the world. At some stage we have to have the honesty, the courage, the clarity, and the love to face that fact, and not to dance around it.
Above transcribed from the video below: