Over twenty years ago, I was living in London and reading an exceptional amount of Eastern spiritual writings when I stumbled across a book called “The Teachings of Ramana Maharishi“. There was a simple practice outlined in the book where the reader was encouraged to engage in an inquiry into their true nature.
Simply put, you were to ask yourself “Who am I?” and then keep at it until your true nature was magically revealed and you would live in bliss and harmony for all the rest of your days. Or at least that’s what I thought was going to happen. When I first tried it for myself, my already busy mind managed to turn it into a somewhat neurotic exploration of my personality, as every answer to the question “who am I?” came with a label and a role.
Turned out that in my mind, I was:
- An actor
- A boyfriend
- A good guy
- An American
- Mostly healthy
Then one day, I was playing with it while walking through the center of London and the dialogue took a turn in a new direction:
“Who am I?”
“The one who keeps asking ‘who am I’.
“Who is asking?”
“The one who is listening for the answer.”
“Who is listening?”
“The one who wants to know.”
“Who is the one who wants to know?”
At around that point, I turned the corner from Charing Cross road into Leicester Square, one of the busiest pedestrian areas in London, and the world went quiet. For a couple of minutes, I fell into what I now call “the space within” – that timeless place inside ourselves where thoughts arise, anything is possible, and our spiritual nature is a given. The experience of it was both peaceful and slightly disconcerting – like sitting in the midst of a bustling city center with noise-canceling headphones blocking out the sound.
I only rested in the feeling of it for a few minutes before my little mind kicked back in and began asking questions like “what the hell just happened?”, “is that what it feels like to be enlightened?”, and “how can I get it to happen again?” But despite my best efforts, that particular practice never produced that particular result again.
In the ensuing years, I’ve had that experience many times, but what I’ve come to see is that it’s less to do with the questions you ask yourself than the direction in which you look. When I look to the world of form, I learn more about appearances. When I look to the world within, I learn more about my true self.
This is why I struggled with the guidance of my coaches and mentors in the 3 Principles community who repeatedly told me that I didn’t need to do anything to experience my deeper nature. “If there are no prerequisites to inner awakening,” I asked one teacher, “then why do I experience it so much more often when I’m with you than when I’m on my own?”
It was intended as a rhetorical (and somewhat snarky) question, but to my surprise one day the answer occurred to me. The reason I experienced myself at peace inside myself more of the time when I was with a teacher than when I was on my own was because they rarely encouraged me to look outside myself to improve my life and continually pointed me back to the source of experience – the inner Mind, creative Thought, and infinite Consciousness that made up the world one moment at a time and one thought after another.
Quite simply, we see what we are looking at. And if I want to see more of who and what I really am, I only need to look in that direction more of the time.
It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from the writer Franz Kafka:
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Have fun, learn heaps, and happy exploring!
With all my love,