Timothy Conway will be a retreat leader at both the Awakening Together Satsang Retreat and the ‘Soak in the Beauty’ Retreat this September. Over the next several days I will post questions from seekers along with Timothy’s answers. The first question and answer is posted below.
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Q: I cannot seem to find, know or perceive the Self or Awareness. I get a vague sense of the Self, but I can’t seem to bring it clearly into focus.
An oft-heard complaint. The Self is not an object to be rendered “clearer” or “more focused.” The clarity of focus is in realizing that one’s true nature as Awareness is not any kind of object, thing or entity at all. Awareness need only rest or abide as ItSelf, sheer Isness-Aliveness-Sentience-Intelligence, the basic roomy Capacity for experience. Invisible and imperceptible, Awareness need not go in search of ItSelf or try to make an object out of ItSelf, just as a fingertip is not “designed” to touch itself and will only convolute or dislocate itself in trying to do so. If you want to perceive the Self [objectively], behold the world and all its beautiful beings—Divine Forms of the Formless.
Q: What basic attitude should be maintained?
Just be capacious no-thingness, with a simple, keen curiosity or affectionate amusement over Who/What am I? And what the hell/heaven is going on here? What is the true nature of this arising pain or pleasure, this discomfort or comfort, this confusion or clarity? What is the real nature or underlying reality of this “me”-subject and “my” objects of experience?
In general, one enquires “What is this? What is this particular saliently-arising state (fear, lust, anger, shame, envy, euphoria, pride, numbness, tightness, nervousness, body sensations, thoughts, memories, images, psychic impulses…)? And for Whom does it arise?”
Awareness being the only Reality, when Awareness investigates Its own emanations-productions, It deconstructs them and knows neti, neti, “I’m not this, not this.” The Buddha often put it, “this [whatever aggregate or state] is not mine; this I am not; this is not my self.” [N’etam mama, n’eso ‘ham ‘asmi, na meso atta.] This is Buddhist mindfulness, Hindu witnessing, Christian-Sufi watchfulness. No need to get heavy or obsessive with it. There’s nothing to “do” and nobody to “become.”
Just be, just remain as you are, in the relaxed, “natural state,” lucidly dreaming the life-dream, freely noticing-enjoying the basic fact of Awareness and Its objects. And plainly know that You are both this Formless Awareness and these “Form-full” objects. Thus, you can be fullyengaged while freely unengaged, compassionately involved while transcendentally uninvolved.