with 2 Comments

 I Was the Only Hiker On the Trail

It is easy to feel at one with the snow, trees, sun and the crisp mountain air.  Though not when I think about it, for as soon as thoughts enter the mind I am an isolated hiker alone in the wilderness.

I experience this often.

Bill hard ar work 11-11-15I’m at home now as I write this.  And to write requires words that come to the thinking mind.

There’s a logic here.  But it isn’t what I felt on the trail an hour ago.

In India there is a group of followers of a wise man who died about seventy years ago, Ramana Maharishi, who would tell you that what I experienced was beyond my individuality.

It was an awareness that is all around us, all the time, making it possible for us to use our senses — to see, feel, hear all that is out there.


Here’s the Tricky Bit

The awareness is more than my sense impressions.  Beyond them really.  The awareness, yes, is the sound and feel of my boots crunching the snow as I step along.  And it is also beyond them.  It is awareness of my consciousness as well.

This greater awareness is in all things everywhere, including the ravens who flew by with their raucous cur-r-ruck, cur-r-ruck.  But as I say, it is tricky to behold.

To get a taste of this, the folks at Ramana’s favorite gathering place, the holy hill, Arunachala, use a spiritual practice they call Atma-vichara, translated Self-inquiry.

Their practice is really simple.  It is to ask yourself over and over again, seriously ask, “Who am I?”

When asked repeatedly, one see that I am not the one asking, for I am more than that.

Actually, even the asking diverts us from the answer.


Here Is the Biggie

IT is not in any of the written philosophies or theories about IT.

Each theory is right.  And also wrong. They are each right from each point of view, like the blind men and the elephant. But they are also wrong, for they are couched in the words used to speak about IT. The words differ from the experience they are trying to describe.


But . . .

If you do as I have done, study the many different philosophies, you will see how different they are one from another.

Their differences can’t be IT for they change from one to another as you read about them.

So, paradoxically, IT is never what we think.

Though IT is what I think and all that the books say as well — all of them — and all else as well.

IT, the ever-present awareness, is there. Always there. Everywhere. All the time.

As the wise will always say, IT is “one, without a second.”


So the Practice

Keep on asking, “Who am I?”  And you will become aware that the question itself is a hurdle.

For asking, “Who am I?”  isn’t IT itself.

IT is all that is — the being.

All that is is content.

All that is is awareness.

This is the bliss of what I experience when I simply hike without thinking.  When I am just being open to the trees, snow, cold and air.


Science Is Also Inquiring

There is a book written by Norway’s leading science writer, Tor Norretranders, whIch opens intellectual thinking to a wider view of IT.

The book has the catchy title, The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size.

It begins with the words of a famous scientist, James Clerk Maxwell, as he lay on his deathbed,

What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me.

And Norretrander’s first words in the book’s Preface:

Consciousness is at once the most immediately present and the most inscrutably intangible entity in human existence.

We can talk to each other about consciousness, but it is fundamentally, ineradicably subjective in character, a phenomenon that can be experienced only alone, from within.

Consciousness is the experience of experiencing, the knowledge of knowing, the sense of sensing.  But what is it that experiences the experience? What happens when one observes the experience of experiencing from without and asks, ‘How much does consciousness actually observe?’

As you can see, this book is about scientists who are asking the same question that the wise ones in India are asking, “Who am I?”

It is a fascinating read that opens our logical thinking to new ways of seeing things. It still does not answer the question, though.  And while it acknowledges that there is something greater than us, that we are seeking, it does not come much nearer the answer to what IT is.

A physicist in a group I was part of, that was exploring this area, compared our quest to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, saying that,

The more we try to explain an experience, the farther we are away from the experience.  And conversely, the more we experience, the farther away from an explanation we are.

I’d like to hear your thoughts or experiences.  Just jot them down below.  Share them with others who read this post.


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2 Responses

  1. jsundwall
    | Reply

    Dear Backpacker Bill,

    Great post this morning. Here’s what got stirred up:

    It stands to reason that there can be no object without a subject, doesn’t it? It’s always the conscious awareness, the inner ‘light’ falling on this or that which brings a thing to life, including whatever I consider to be ‘myself’. That’s why the wise say that along with the rising of the ‘I’ thought (the feeling of being a separate entity) comes the appearance of the creation: the I thought and the creation rise simultaneously. This is why in the practice of self-inquiry (atma-vichara) when I see I’m identified with the body/mind, and feeling separate, I allow this question to arise, ‘Who am I?’ But it’s my understanding that these words are not to be used like a mantra, not to be repeated over and again, but sounded in mind just once. The words cause me to fall still and remember myself, to acknowledge my existence, my presence in this moment. And it is that infinitely simple ‘feeling’ of being in which I recognize that I am that presence itself, with nothing added, ever unified; this is what one could say is the answer to the question ‘Who am I?’

    As I understand Maxwell’s dying words, ‘What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me’, points in the right direction (which is to say things may not be as they appear) but it doesn’t tell the whole story. What if we put it this way: Who I am in truth is The Reality because of which everything exists, and what is called myself, the ‘doer’, is a superimposition, an impostor, a phantom.

    The non-dualist says ‘I Am’ prior to the creation, during the creation, and after the creation. Furthermore, I Am ever uninvolved and unchanged throughout.

    There is nothing ‘out there bigger than us’. The way Maxwell says it suggests that behind all this is another entity, like a grand puppeteer, so it’s not ‘me’ who does the physics, appreciates winter, walks the dog or bakes the bread.

    At the beginning of your post you mention how, when there is no thinking about it, there is no separate individual, just the feeling of being unified with everything. You point out that when there is one and not two there is no subject/object relationship, just ‘is-ness.

    Thanks so much for your efforts here.


    • BackpackerBill
      | Reply

      Thanks, Joe. IT is so difficult to talk about. You make some good points. It’s good to have your input.

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