Like most I am most susceptible to falling off of the spiritual track when I’m suffering or events seem to be going wrong. I went to sleep Saturday night centered and at peace even though I was bothered with a nasty headache. That night I slept for a total of three hours. I lay there in my bed observing my digital laser clock projected onto the wall. I felt little frustration from my lack of sleep at the time, but I knew if sleep did not take over soon then morning and the following hours would be rough. I did not sleep for the rest of the night.
Sunday morning I attended church, almost in that of a delirious state. I was nauseous from my lack of sleep and was struggling to stay warm. Cold and tired are usually congruous with one another. If I’m cold then I’m tired. If I’m tired then I’m cold. I was very restless the entire time as the pastor preached about the devil, something I don’t quite agree with. As I looked around at the rest of the congregation, everyone seemed to be stirring in their seats apparently as restless as I was. After the sermon I talked for a long while with a family from England. Our discussion was deep and spiritual, and I observed our meeting as the reason I was pushed to attend the service that morning.
I felt awful for the rest of the day, a perfect time for me to label myself as a victim and find somewhere to turn up the noise and push my spiritual presence deeper within. I find moments like yesterday to be the ultimate test of consciousness. It is not much of a test to focus on the peaceful presence within when things are going right but when things turn sour is when we truly see how brightly our spiritual presence is shining. There were a few times when I turned up what I like to call noise, but for the most part I stayed pretty strong. Even though I didn’t succumb to the victim role, the whole day kind of threw me off balance. Before going to bed that night I was feeling a bit lost and disconnected. I told myself that I didn’t have to let an off day break me, so I picked up my most recent book, A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle, read a few pages and then meditated. It was a quick fix and I was almost immediately pulled back into a state of peace. It made me realize that even when we’re at our worst, it is always possible to turn things around and break the cycle.
Being the philosopher that I am, my latest query is one that we all face and probably ask ourselves several times the day. Who am I? I can’t count the times in my life when I looked up to God and asked Him this question. Many times my questions arise from statements other people make towards me or even challenging, sometimes offensive comments. When I feel as if I’ve been offended I try immediately to stop the situation and become the observer. I step away from my mind and observe why I’m taking the offensive and what thoughts are incorporated with this feeling. First off I usually discover that there’s really no need to be offended at all because the person is offending my false sense of self or my ego, not who I really am. Second, I realize the emotion is taking place because I’m being challenged with a belief I have formed that I have doubts about or not a firm understanding of, so I’m being challenged with something that I fear about myself.
In my most recent entry, “The Life I Could Have Had”, it was proposed to me that I might be living in the past. For a split second I took offense to the comment, then went through my two steps and asked myself, “Wait a second, am I living in the past?” I thought back to the moments as I wrote about what life would be like if I was back in the mountains unharmed and normal, and I realized that during those moments I was not imagining with grief or anger, but visualizing the imagined life with fondness and warmth. Taking myself back to the cozy feeling of my mountain household brought a feeling of acceptance of both the past and present. Realizing that I wrote what I did with no bitterness I asked myself if it was OK to think about the past, and the conclusion I came to was that the present moment is all that truly matters, but there is nothing wrong with looking back on the past as long as it is without regret of how things should have been or a deep longing for those moments to replace the now.
The thoughts then led to deeper ones in which I stated to my mom and sister that one should not identify with their past, emphasizing that so many people cling to the past, the past becoming who they are. “But the past is who I am,” my sister exclaimed. “The past has made me who I am.”
I stuttered a bit, not really knowing quite what to say. Yes, the past makes us who we are but people identify with past fears and past anger. But then don’t people also identify with past joy and past happiness? Who would I be if it were not for these moments. Crap, I thought I had all figured out. Who am I?
I referred to my good friend, Eckhart Tolle and came to some conclusions. The question of “who am I” leads to two basic answers. I am either what the past has created me to be or I am a spiritual presence that was there at my birth and has remained unchanged throughout my years. One could also challenge to say that we are both or that both are the same thing.
It is my opinion that the past has not created who I am but has created my ego. My ego being a false identity created over the years through various experiences. My ego attaches certain emotions to these experiences being that of anger, guilt, happiness, joy, sorrow and so on. The ego creates a sense of self through past experiences and the emotion attached with the experience, so that who we are becomes based off of a conglomeration of the past and associated attachments. However, it turns out the ego is a conniving deceiver because it is absolutely impossible to attach a true sense of self from these experiences because it is not possible to remember our experiences as they truly were. We think we remember them as they really happened but this just isn’t possible. The only way to truly experience something as it really exists is to experience it right now. As soon as the experience is over our memory of it in no way truly compares to how it really happened.
In the same sense there is no way to identify the exact emotion which took place during a past experience. You may remember feeling a certain way but yet the only way to truly understand an emotion is to experience it now. I may look back on a certain experience and think I was happy at the time but really I may have been struggling and frustrated. There’s no real way to be certain. So how am I supposed to put together an identity from experiences neither understood nor imagined as they really were? In fact, my memory of these experiences is no way near what the experience was actually like. It’s like trying to view a piece of artwork with blurred vision.
So how do I envision the artwork which is who I am clearly? How do I understand?
When looking upon a Picasso, does one ever understand what we are seeing. No, you simply feel the power of the painting and absorb yourself in a feeling which seems to radiate off of the canvas and into your soul. The feeling cannot be explained or understood. It’s a mutual connection which can only be experienced. Much like art, who we are is not something to be understood or explained. To find out who we are, we must look inside ourselves and absorb the peaceful presence within, let it swallow up our past false identities, and overwhelm the senses. Who we are is then clear and bright as day right there in the moment. It was there before the past existed and will be there for eternity. Once this moment is experienced explanation is no longer needed because who we are is felt deep within and the feeling felt needs no words. I am not past, present or future, I am eternal.