You and Your ‘I’
Before you do this meditation session, please take 5 mins to contemplate and fill out the right column of the table below with a few words. If you are reading on a digital copy, take a pen and a paper to write down your responses.
I am happy when…
I am unhappy when…
NOTE: Recommend to read further only after finishing the table above!
Now let me tell you that whatever you have written is not about YOU! It is about something that is artificially created by YOU and other external forces at work. YOU have written about your ‘I’. YOU and your ‘I’ are two different entities. YOU are real, your ‘I’ is a substitute of YOU.
This critical differentiation between YOU and your ‘I’ may sound trivial at first but the epiphany awaits for those who go deeper into this examination of the self.
Why it is important to realise the distinction between YOU and your ‘I’?
Your ‘I’ is a part of YOU. It is an avatar of your consciousness manifested to interact with others. In a perfect world, YOUR ‘I’ represents YOU in the world. It is an extension of YOU just like your hand is an outreach in your physical form. However, in the ways we exist in this world, YOU are carefully not allowed to develop or even express out through your ‘I’, rather your ‘I’ is allowed to develop in a highly regulated and influenced procedure, where there is heavy participation of the neurotic worldly interests. Unless you distinguish and live that distinction, chances are that you will be steered by external forces only and not by YOU, which creates a deep sense of unfulfillment throughout life.
One of my uncles in India was always talking to himself. He was getting old, so you know things happen when people get old! All day long he was talking to himself. One day someone asked, “Why are you just talking to yourself?” He replied “I only like to talk to a smart man and I also only like to hear a smart man talking! That is why I just talk to myself!”
A shift from your ‘I’ to YOU is the core phenomenon that marks any spiritual awakening. Take a look at what you wrote again and read the following:
‘I’ am happy when…
‘I’ am unhappy when…
‘I’ want, ‘I’ dont want, ‘I’ wish…and so on.
This ‘I’ has a name.
This ‘I’ has desires, wants, wishes, ambitions, fears, perceptions, plans, is looking for happiness…and so forth and so on.
But YOU are not this ‘I’.
YOU don’t have a name,
YOU don’t have desires,
YOU don’t have fears,
YOU don’t have bondages…
‘I’ can never be free. YOU are already free.
‘I’ can never be desireless, YOU are already desireless.
‘I’ can never be fearless, YOU are already fearless.
‘I’ can never be really happy, YOU are already happy.
YOU are not your ‘I’.
I am speaking to YOU. Not to your ‘I’.
Are you listening to me or is your ‘I’ listening to me?
If your ‘I’ is listening to me, then there is no magic, there is no hope for any transformation.
If YOU are listening, there is every possibility!
Your ‘I’, when it come too close to YOU, it hypnotises YOU, it makes YOU think and feel that YOU are the ‘I’. This ‘I’ is a flawless illusionist. When YOU act according to this ‘I’, YOU forget that YOU are just the actor and playing the role of ‘I’. Heath Ledger, an Australian actor who played the role of Joker in a famous movie called Dark Knight was so intensely involved in his role that he got into severe depression due to the character’s dark profile. Eventually he died out of drug abuse being unable to withdraw himself out of the aggravated identification with his role.
Create and maintain a distance with the ‘I’. Spirituality traditions have taken several approaches to deal with the artificially created ‘I’. The radical ones preach to eliminate the ‘I’ by renunciation of the material world, hoping that it will annihilate the trouble maker. You can chose to go that monastic path of austerity or you simply learn to create a distance to your ‘I’. The latter allows you to maintain your lifestyle while gaining clarity about the self. Your ‘I’ is rooted in the world. You don’t have to uproot it. You don’t have to destroy it. All you have to do is to put this ‘I’ aside for a while and just be, experiencing your true self which is nameless, formless, desireless, fearless and eternally situated in freedom. Disidentified and silently observing your ‘I’ which has a name, a shape, has desires, wishes, fears, bondages etc.
Meditation is a systematic approach to create a distance between YOU and your ‘I’ and maintain it during your mundane activities as YOU play the role of your ‘I’.
- Posture: Sit in a comfortable meditation posture on the floor or on a chair. Hands either in your lap or on your thighs. If necessary, you may lay down on a mat but I always recommend to meditate in a sitting posture with erect spine. Head and face relaxed, eyes closed.
- Identify your ‘I’: Take 3-5 mins to gather the sense of your ‘I’ by thinking about what what you consider as yourself. Without any exception, whatever arises in your thoughts, perception and consciousness – all of it is your ‘I’. Let this sense of ‘I’ consolidate and become clearer in your mind.
- Push away your ‘I’ with exhalation: Bring your awareness to your breath, specifically to the exhalation. With every breath out, visualise and feel as if you are pushing this ‘I’ to an arms length outside of YOU. With ever breath, layer by layer, like peeling an onion, more of the ‘I’ is peeled-off of YOU and pushed at an arms length. Keep breathing at a natural pace and following the rhythm of exhalation. All your focus should be on gradually pushing the ‘I’ at a distance away. Continue doing this for about 8-10 mins until all contents of your ‘I’ are away. Don’t interacting with the ‘I’. Keep it at a distance. Visualise it as an entity if it helps.
- Shift awareness to what is left: Notice the silence created in your centre, follow that silence to move gently inwards. Stay in the silence and a pure sense of being for the next minutes. This being is YOU! Notice the it has no name, it has no shape and it is utterly silent, as it aways was, is and will be.
- Reactivate the ‘I’: Allow the thought of ‘I’ to enter your consciousness again. It brings along a thousand things with it, let it do that on its own pace, while you watch this process firmly situated at your silent centre.
- While maintaining the distinguished sense of YOU and your ‘I’, slowly open your eyes and move back into the world.