Over the last few days we have been focusing on truth, life-presence. Focusing on life-presence is Self-inquiry, a form of devotion where we continually focus on our true Self.
Today, we are going to shift to self-inquiry. That’s questioning the false self in order to recognize that it isn’t our truth. It isn’t what we are. It is merely the effect of attention attracted to thought.
Today’s lesson asks us to question fear. Fear takes many forms. Sometimes it is easily recognized, like when we are afraid of not being safe, but at other times we may not recognize fear as fear. For example, I could feel angry and think I am angry because another person has done something unreasonable. However, if I look deeply into my anger by asking why am I angry, I might find that I am afraid that person’s action is making me look bad. This is an example of when fear takes the form of anger.
Fear is a basic characteristic of ego thinking. As today’s lesson points out, when we identify with the fear thinking in the mind, our truth is unknown to us. This is why we need to practice self-inquiry. We need to return to recognizing our Self as our Self.
The lesson says it would be easy to disregard fear thoughts by recognizing our Self, but we don’t do this. Why? The lesson says that we have “asked this stranger in to take your place, and let you be a stranger to yourself.”
How have we done this?
Attention is an aspect of awareness. I often call it the arm of awareness, since it can reach out and experience different things. When our attention is engrossed in fear thoughts, we are presently asking “this stranger” to appear as our self. In that way, we simultaneously deny our true Self.
Today’s lesson recommends that we ask, “Who is the stranger?” Another way to do that is to ask, “What am I?” Both questions help us to discern between what we are not and what we are.
Let me demonstrate. Let’s say I have a lot of work that needs to be done, and I begin to feel stress. In spite of all of the work, I am committed enough to the process of awakening to take a short break from work and do some journaling about the stress I am feeling.
I ask, “Why do I feel stressed?” The answer that is seen first is because of all of the work I have to do. However, I realize that is not the root of my stress so I look more deeply.
I ask, “Why do I feel stressed about having a lot of work?” I realize that I am afraid of what other people will think of me if I do not accomplish my work within a certain timeframe. I see that I think they will perceive me as unworthy. As I look deeper, I notice that I’m afraid that may be true. I’m afraid that I am not as good as other people.
Through this inquiry, I’ve identified a line of thinking that I am identified with. I am identified with the idea that I am not as good as other people. I am also identified with the fear that others may find this out.
Now it is time to practice self-inquiry on this thinking. I look directly at the thinking I have uncovered and I ask, “What sees these thoughts?” I shift my attention within to look in the direction of the looker, back towards the source of attention. I notice there are the thoughts and there is the looker looking at the thoughts.
Once I have the experience of noticing these two (thoughts and looker), I ask, “Which am I?” This leads me to see that I am the looker, life-presence-awareness. It is clear the thoughts are the stranger here. They are not me.
When we practice self-inquiry repeatedly, we become increasingly clear on the difference between identification with thought (the false self) and our true Self. This clarity is what today’s lesson calls a miracle. It says, “The miracle will come. For in his home his Self remains. It asked no stranger in, and took no alien thought to be Itself.”
Pay attention today. Notice when you are feeling fear in one form or another. Watch for things like annoyance, frustration, anger, worry, stress, avoidance, etc. When you notice fear, inquire into it in order to receive more clarity about the thoughts that are causing the emotion. Once the thoughts have been uncovered, practice self-inquiry in order to separate the false self (identification with thought) from the true Self (the watcher). Notice which one you are and which one you are not.