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.
I’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.