“Awareness is the very essence of each of our minds. It is the gravitational pull of our true nature on the apparently separate self or finite mind. That is where the power of meditation comes from – the gravitational force of our true nature attracting itself back to itself.” Rupert Spira, "Self Enquiry vs Mantra Meditation" : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKGv5qW3lLo
Below is Helen Hamilton's wonderful self-inquiry practice guiding us to embody our true nature, and thus enjoy profound peace. This occurs as we release our fear-based 'me alone against the world' delusion, and we open up to embrace the 'unitive mystical experience' - a profound felt sense of oneness - a key component of all of the world's mystical traditions.
To derive the most from Helen's instructions, I suggest turning on & listening to her video (bottom of page) WHILE reading along using this transcript:
“We are in satsang today for the highest of reasons – the culmination of human evolution is to realize the true essence of our being, what it actually is who we really are.
And that is something very different to what we might have thought we were. This illusion persists for quite some time, that we are a separate person living in a body that’s separate to everyone else; that there are an infinite number of beings; and that when the body goes, we go.
So in satsang we’re here to turn that around to the experiential, lived & effortless, constant realization that of who we really are. What does it actually mean to live constantly, effortlessly knowing who we are – when it’s not a mentally remembering anymore? What does this actually entail?
I can only ever speak from my own experience and for me that was peace – a deep, profound peace. It’s not something up in our head that we’re carrying around – this understanding that I’m not separate to anyone else. It drops deeper than the mind. It drops into the heart, and then even eventually deep down, right into the cells of the body. And this understanding that I’m not separate really, that there’s only one of us here, no matter what our mind may think, results in this deep, deep quietness & peace, and eventually a complete lack of fear. Eventually that manifests as a kind of deep love & intimacy with all of life, all of existence, because underneath our mind’s ideas, we know deep down that it’s all always our Self that we’re meeting. Even if we think we’re meeting someone else, we never really have actually. So we all need reminding of who we really are until we don’t anymore, until it’s become effortless.
And that’s what satsang is for. And the role of any authentic teacher is really to just keep saying this same thing over & over again, which is all I’m doing here, showing the same thing over & over again. And each time we see it, it cuts through the fog or veil of illusion that we are this someone, and it begins to quieten the mind down, when we realize more & more deeply that: what we’re thinking about; who we’re thinking about; where we’re trying to get to; and who we’re trying to become, might not actually be based on reality. That the actual reality is that there’s only one being here in existence, and it’s manifesting, appearing as all of this universe in fact.
So all of our thought processes about what to do about this other being; what to do about this other thing that we want, or need, or want to get rid of; become less & less relevant and eventually we’re just not interested anymore. And that takes as long as it takes, but we can fuel & speed that process by coming to satsang like this.
I wanted to take a different look at self-inquiry and do some self-inquiry live today. For me, self-inquiry was perhaps the thing I was confused about most, for the longest time. I had the sense, when I first came across this phrase ‘self-inquiry,’ that it was something that the mind had to get. In my mind, it was like, ‘Everybody’s tried to make it very complicated,’ as a way of resisting doing it. ‘If it feels too complicated, I don’t want to go there,’ – that kind of feeling. ‘I’m never going to be able to figure it out naturally.’ But I was surprised and delighted to discover that self-inquiry is one of the simplest things we can actually ever do.
Self-inquiry could be as simple as asking to find out who we really are, what we really are, and then noticing the answers. Most of us have this belief that it’s hard to find out who we are, and we experience that belief. And it’s even harder perhaps, we feel, to live as that. So I want to approach self-inquiry from a different perspective today – in a way that I’ve called, very lightly, the inclusive method.
We’re perhaps more familiar with the neti neti approach, which just means everything that I perceive, I am not that – in an attempt to get down to the most essential core of my being, I’m not my thoughts; I’m not my emotions; I’m not my experiences; I’m not my desires; I’m not my body; - on & on & on it goes, until I’m left with nothing, literally 'no thingness' – that must be what I am. And that’s the only thing that that’s not going to go. Well this approach has worked for many, many beings, but I never really got to grips with that approach, at least at first.
I’m sure many teachers have done this – but I stumbled upon this (‘inclusive’) inquiry of including everything. And I had this epiphany one day that maybe the answers to the question, ‘Who am I?’ ‘What am I?’ are so immediately obvious that we can’t accept them; that we don’t accept them.
So ask this question, that really worked for me, ‘What am I?’ And if you prefer, you can substitute the question, ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Where am I?’ – whichever one you like. I’m going to go with the question, ‘What am I?’ just for the sake of what really worked for me. And we’re going to accept that if we are the only thing in existence, the moment we ask this question, we must receive an answer. So it’s about opening up, and including all the answers we wouldn’t have previously included as answers. So work with this, and perhaps you’ll begin to see self-inquiry in a different light.
To begin, let’s keep our eyes open, at least at first. Ask this question, ‘What am I?’ Immediately, I can hear a computer fan going, so there’s my first answer, ‘I am the computer fan.’ I can also hear my own breathing – ‘I am my breathing.’ I notice my body sitting here – ‘I am my body too.’ I hear birds singing outside the back of the house – ‘I am the birds singing, the bird-song.’ I can feel the air touching my face – ‘I am the air too.’ A car just drove past outside my house as I was saying that last sentence – ‘I am that car too.’
So these might be answers that we wouldn’t normally include in a question, and as human beings we tend to fixate only on the answers that appear between our ears or feel inside our body. So this inclusive method is really just a way of opening up to all the answers that are being given right now.
My body feels quite warm, so I am that heat. What else am I? Well, I am this (scarf I’m wearing), and these (bracelets I’m wearing), there’s another person in the room – Claire – I am Claire too. I see all of you – I am you too. In this way of opening up to who we really are is so immediate, that perhaps we might reject it. I am all the objects in the room that I’m perceiving. Everything my senses are taking in – I am that. And if I am you, I’m also everything that your senses are perceiving. If someone were to knock on the door or a phone were to ring or an ambulance siren went off, I’d be all of those too. If I got an itch or I had to sneeze, I’d be those too.
This might be a different way of doing self-inquiry than you’re used to, but just feeling that your body can recognize the truth of the immediacy of this way of doing it. In between these words there’s a silent stillness – I am that too. There’s a spaciousness between all the objects. It’s also silence – same, same, I am that. But that is just another answer here in this inquiry. It’s not ‘the’ answer. It’s not even the right answer. There isn’t a right answer. There’s just the question, ‘What am I?’ and all the answers.
Just looking around your environment, listening to what you’re actually hearing – subtle sounds, what subtle answers are you getting right now? Are there any smells? Are you hot or cold? Can you accept that these are answers to this most important question – ‘What really am I?’
Self-inquiry for me, became so very immediate or I saw that it had always been. The moment I’d wanted to find out what I was, the very first time I realized that there was something to realize, life was answering that question consistently & continuously. And it took me all that time to learn to receive the actual answers. Wherever my body could go, if it could go to the other side of the universe somehow to a distant galaxy, I would also be everything I was experiencing there, and everything in between. I am these words. I am your experience.
When we use this inclusive method, our body begins to relax. The more that we open and focus on the question – not trying to focus on the answers because the answers are all just coming – naturally there’s just peace, because we’re not limiting ourselves to any particular definition. We’re not even saying, ‘I am the silence, and not these words, these sounds.’ We’re including everything: phenomena and that which they arise from – all objects and that which is not an object. If some fear were to arise, I am that too – another answer. If I feel confused and not sure if I’m doing this right, I am that confusion too. If I have an epiphany, an aha moment, I am that too.
But your whole life then, every experience, every moment, can be an answer to this question, ‘What am I?’ I am my boss when he’s angry. I am my friend’s birthday party. I am the airplane. On & on & on with phenomenal answers, and the noticing more & more constantly of the non-phenomenal answer: the Noumenon – the silent, stillness, consciousness, presence – whatever you want to call that. Not even preferring the Noumenon over the phenomena, because they’re really one and the same. So could the answer to this question be not so much of a thought process, or even an epiphany, although those are fine, but a lived, constant receiving of the answers to this question? Life is showing you constantly what you really are. And really moving away from trying to find a final answer, because there isn’t one, there’s one answer that’s always present: the silence, the stillness. And we come to notice it more. But it’s not really the right answer. There isn’t one. It’s just the only constant answer. It doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t make it different to the phenomenal answers which are coming and going. They’re just checking your environment around you noticing the subtle answers you’re receiving, even now. Noticing that your body begins to really resonate with this inclusive method. There’s no work here to do. There’s just an opening up to all the different types of answers that we receive to this powerful question, ‘What really am I?’
We might even begin to realize that we’ve only really suffered because we valued our mind’s answers more than everything else, and perhaps excluded everything else, that we only value mind’s answers & thoughts – we experience those. We can simply open up at any point and see what other answers we’re missing out on. Maybe self-inquiry then becomes something that we be rather than we do; becomes a way of living, a mode of being, where everything we encounter – internal phenomena, thoughts, experiences, emotions, sense perceptions, everything external, seeming other beings, other things – begin to be recognized as our very own self. The more we practice this inclusive open way of inquiring, the more & more obvious it becomes that all of this is you. If these words aren’t coming from somewhere outside of you, they’re coming from inside, inside your own being, the only being.
And maybe life can be simply a process of life showing us which answers we have excluded because we don’t like them. Fear, guilt, shame, anger, other beings that we have a challenge with, and being willing to include them. That is also me, this is how I’m showing up right now. I’m also appearing as this shame, this frustration, this irritated person in front of me at the supermarket.
You can appear in an infinite number of ways. And as you practice like this, you lose the attachment to the particular body that’s here right now. I am all of these bodies. Bodies are coming and going constantly. Yes, we look after and value this body, but we don’t need to be scared when it’s gone. And we recognize we are all of existence. So just feel right now, just for in terms of getting used to self-inquiry, if you like it like this, and this has been easier for you, then this will take you all the way into full realization.
Just remembering gently to ask the question throughout the day, ‘What am I?’ ‘What else am I?’ Seeing every now and again if we haven’t closed up and begun to exclude things that we think are external – sounds and other people and all of that. Out of habit, we close back up again, and start to only listen to thoughts & emotions, giving them a specialness over everything else that’s in existence. But here in this way of inquiring, a thought is really no more special than a sofa, a human body, or a cloud. They all have the sameness. It’s just another way I am appearing. I’m appearing as this judgmental thought, as this angry thought. I’m appearing as bliss, or peace, or frustration, or sadness, or snow, or sunshine. Appearing as the smallest subatomic particle and the whole universe itself. Anything that I can perceive must be an answer to this question, ‘What really am I?’
Can we accept that it can be this simple and direct? Do we have to make it more complicated than this? Then just living like this for a while becomes a habit, where you somehow, in the middle of all that, forget how to divide yourself into me and other. The more we include, include, include, the bigger our self-definition gets until it becomes as big as the universe and its source. And that need not take very long at all. What takes the time is our habit of closing back up, excluding again. So for a little while you’ll be opening up, including, then forgetting about that and focusing back on thoughts and beginning to suffer, and then you’ll open up again and feel peaceful, expansive, and then you’ll close down again. After a little while, with consistency, you’ll forget how to focus on only one type of answer - on thoughts. I hope that you’ve had a different experience of self-inquiry than maybe you’ve had before. I hope that it is more accessible, and perhaps more pleasant and peaceful and much more effortless. It really is just about asking the question and being open to see how immediate the answers might be. Being willing to see the different types of answers, things that perhaps you wouldn’t normally guess as answers to a question: a bird singing, the siren wailing, the rain falling – yet they are here. When I ask the question, what I experience must be the answer.” Helen Hamilton "What really am I?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b0py5Ae5bA