We live in a sort of dream world, created by our constant thinking activity. We have been doing this for so long, we have come to accept our thinking as reality, not realizing that reality is passing us by as we continue to dream. We don’t see this predicament we’re in because everyone around us is operating the same way.
In our youth, we were filled by those around us with ideas, opinions, and beliefs. Over time, we began to develop a sense of personal identity from this collection of thoughts. Since then, we have been immersed in a world that continually reinforces this mental sense of self – parents, teachers, friends, TV, movies, etc. are constantly supporting our sense of personal identity. Whenever we have the thought of “I” (which is our most frequent thought), a huge collection of other thoughts, beliefs, preferences, and fears arise from association.
As a result, we feel as if there is an actual “somebody” inside of us who is having these thoughts. But is there? Look closely. Don’t try to think about it or analyze it – just look at what is actually there inside, right now. When there is no thought activity, can you find any separate self? It is the movement of thinking itself that creates the sense of an “I”. We sustain this sense of self by keeping the movement of thought going continuously, day and night.
If you can allow the mind to become still, even for a few seconds, you will see that there is undeniably something still there. There is consciousness, there is aliveness. But there is no separate, personal self to be found.
The difficulty in this process is that, when we first attempt to look within, it is the mind that does the looking, and this cannot yield any meaningful results. We are so accustomed to focusing on the mind that, even if a rare moment of mental stillness occurs, we miss it entirely – much like when we look at a night sky and see only the stars, without being aware of all the space between those stars. Just like our attention is drawn to objects without being aware of the space that holds those objects, our attention is likewise drawn to thoughts without being aware of the silence that holds those thoughts.
When we look within, we tend to look for a “something” – but the reality of what we are is not an object to be found. It has no shape, no form, no qualities. It cannot be labeled or defined in any way. And yet, it is here right now. It is what we are, right at this very moment.