“This too shall pass.” - Unknown author
Why should we work on ourselves? What is the ultimate goal of such work?
It’s simple: to achieve permanent happiness. Or at least, to become much happier than our “normal life” offers. Even if our reason is curiosity or spiritual drive for the Truth, that’s again sort of happiness.
One might say that there are so many other methods to become happy, at least for a while. You can be happy by falling in love, exercising, eating, playing football, talking with your best friend, or doing countless other things. But, the emphasis here is on “for a while.” It won’t last long enough. And when such happiness passes away, there comes its opposite – suffering of various kinds. But that’s kind of expected result. Falling in love or eating – that’s not inner work at all.
On the other hand, even the sincerest self-improvement work will bring about some amount of pain into our lives. These difficulties are often unexpected so that we can talk about the side effects of inner work.
What is the inner work in the first place? It is a broad and fuzzy term. Many teachers and practitioners differ significantly on its meaning; however, I will describe it as conscious effort invested into achieving an ultimate spiritual goal or psychological development, on a regular basis.
True inner work must be comprehensive. It should include investing efforts toward spiritual liberation, developing love and presence, fulfilling and harmonizing goals, doing psychological work, and adhering to ethical standards. Otherwise, the achieved happiness won’t last much. Or all achievements will be accompanied by a lot of suffering.
However, even when you think you have covered all these areas with your work, you will still suffer from time to time. That’s inevitable until you reach the final liberation, or Nirvana as Buddhists call it.
Difficulties of Meditation
Some of the approaches mentioned above are in fact paths to Pure Consciousness, or Presence – meditation sittings, mindfulness, self-inquiry…and they all are inevitably accompanied by many unpleasant side-effects.
Whether you are trying to experience Truth through the process of self-inquiry or to empty your mind and live in the here and now through some form of meditation and mindfulness, you will unavoidably encounter many difficulties along that way. You will be uncovering a lot of previously suppressed emotions, long-forgotten decisions, deep-rooted beliefs, traumatic childhood experiences, fears, resentment, or other hidden mind contents. Even if you are simply trying to wake up pure love in your heart, you will also meet various unpleasant reactions from within.
During the meditation and mindfulness work your mind and body purify progressively. But there is a problem. As more and more layers of the subconscious mind are being removed, old, deeper structures that were mentioned above, emerge inevitably. As you are digging ever deeper into the microcosm of your psyche, any of these can be exposed to the light of your consciousness and triggered off unexpectedly.
As more and more layers of the subconscious mind are being removed, old, deeper structures emerge inevitably.
These unconscious structures can appear in diverse ways. They might manifest within your mind or physical body, so you could, for example, become depressed, anxious, over-reactive, or even physically ill. But if you are very stable mentally and fit physically, these long-suppressed subconscious contents will instead emerge in the outside world. You may experience all kinds of troubles, such as sudden accidents, serious disputes with your loved ones, or even attacks by total strangers.
It’s like the stillness within is telling us: OK, you are able to remain calm during your meditation sittings, when you walk, or during your chores. But are you able to maintain your stillness in this situation?
Or: OK, you can feel deep love of these people in those circumstances. But is your love really that well-founded? Can you love this person in this situation?
And you get the challenge to deal with. Only when you become able to deal with them appropriately, such people and circumstances will not appear in your life anymore.
Difficulties of Goal Achievement Work
Generally speaking, work on goals is even trickier than meditation or mindfulness. For a goal or intention to be fully accomplished, it must be:
2) Without much resistance from your other goals and various parts of your personality, and
3) To be “immersed” into the state of Presence or Pure Consciousness before its manifestation.
Therefore, you have to be very careful during any goal achievement work. Almost every goal carries with it a cluster of various desires, negative beliefs, emotions, and decisions, that are in fact obstacles to the goal’s manifestation. Also, there is always some amount of misalignment or disharmony with other important goals that you want to achieve or with many other parts of your personality. This conflict will produce friction and pain.
To attain the goal, most of these subconscious obstacles and all disharmonious tendencies must be removed peacefully, for example through some form of the Reintegration process.
Difficulties of Psychological Work
This is also a wide area. Psychoanalysis, Transpersonal psychology, Personality psychology, Transaction Analysis, NLP, Reintegration System, etc. – all have quite different approaches, but demand a lot of work anyway. Typically, these types of inner work are not about Pure Consciousness, nor achieving goals. They direct you toward the transformation or integration of various parts of your psyche. Still, they may also trigger numerous disturbing side-effects.
During such work, some aspects of personality are changing, realigning, or reconfiguring. There will be a lot of friction among them until a new mutual equilibrium is established. That friction unavoidably generates suffering, which can be expressed in many ways, too.
Any kind of unexpected physical or emotional troubles may appear. All sorts of unpleasant experiences may arise in your external reality, in forms of aggressive people, sad events, dangerous accidents or anything else.
Sometimes we say life is hard, and it would be much better if we were born as a cat, dog or some other animal that does not have problems and worries in its simple life. Still, if we really had that opportunity, very few of us would actually accept it. We admire our minds and appreciate our self-awareness greatly.
But what is self-awareness in the first place?
It is the capacity of an individual to recognize oneself as a separate entity, distinct from the environment and other individuals. While consciousness means to be aware of the environment, self-awareness purports the individual’s ability to fully comprehend their permanent self and the environment.
It is worth noting that some sources make a distinction between the terms self-awareness and self-consciousness, where the latter is defined as the capacity of the individual to see oneself not only as a separate being, as seen from a first-person view, but to understand that other beings are also aware of them. However, self-awareness and self-consciousness are used as synonyms in this article.
While consciousness means to be aware of the environment, self-awareness purports the individual’s ability to fully comprehend their permanent self and the environment.
Number of Living Beings
Think about this: What is the chance of existing as a self-conscious being, among countless other living entities? Can you get an even slightest idea of how many other beings exist in the universe (or maybe multiverse), and how enormous that number is, even compared to 7.2 billion humans currently living on earth?
Animals, plants, bacteria, viruses… they are all conscious to some degree, meaning, aware of their surroundings. And considering the vastness of space of the cosmos, the number of living creatures with some level of consciousness is truly incomprehensible.
Let us see what would be that number for this planet only. According to some estimates, the total number of prokaryotes (e.g., bacteria) on earth is 5 x 1030 (five billion billion trillion), which is 5 followed by 30 zeros. This is just a rough estimate. As the biomass of all other species is by several orders of magnitude smaller, we could assume that this number covers the vast majority of biomass on earth, including oceans.
The number of living creatures with some level of consciousness is truly incomprehensible.
Who am I? …or… What am I? ...or even… Am I?
These are the ultimate questions of our existence. Is there anybody on this world who has not asked themselves one of these questions at least once in their lifetime? Anyway, for most of us, it would be awesome to reveal answers to these most profound questions.
But why should anyone bother with such questions at all?
The self-inquiry should be self-sufficient per se, with no external benefits. There is no goal to it, except for revealing our true nature. The practice of self-inquiry naturally occurs when an individual reaches spiritual maturity, which genuinely accelerates their pursuit toward the ultimate Truth. An inner urge for self-realization spontaneously arises. Enlightenment is going to happen, of its own accord and that should be sufficient as such. However, there is even more to that.
The practice of self-inquiry naturally occurs when an individual reaches spiritual maturity.
Are There Benefits of Self-Inquiry?
Yes, there indeed are significant side-benefits of such a practice.
If you are doing the self-inquiry on a regular basis, you might experience some profound changes in your life, similar to those of “normal” meditation sittings or mindfulness practice. For example, you might:
If you are doing the self-inquiry on a regular basis, you might experience some profound changes in your life, similar to those of “normal” meditation sittings or mindfulness practice.
But the most precious gain of this practice could be out of any concept of benefit whatsoever: The Ultimate Truth.
The Technique of Self-Inquiry
Now, let us dive into the nuts-and-bolts of self-inquiry. You may be doing it by following these steps:
Here is a more detailed explanation of each step.
1. Enter the state of Presence. Just be here and now. Accept any external impressions, or internal sensations, emotions or thoughts that may arise. For that purpose, you may apply the Dissolving the Temporary I technique, which will take you directly to the boundless state of Pure Consciousness, or Presence.
2. Turn your attention inward and ask the question: What is present?
Note that the question begins with what instead of who. Of course, you may ask the “classical” question Who am I? and might end up with the same result. However, what doesn't imply any identity, while who does. In this process, identities are the obstacles to the Truth, so we aim to release all our identities to experience the essence of our being.
We are living in a time of gadgets. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, TV, smart watches, and many other “smart” things are indisputably helpful in many tasks we are facing every day. However, all these gadgets are, at the same time, great soakers of our attention and energy, often being extremely addictive.
To many of us, building the daily habit of meditation sittings is a challenging task. Even if we establish it, we might be often distracted by many external influences, including electronic devices.
When we are watching something on the device’s display, we are in fact totally immersed in that content. Our attention is entirely absorbed by the games, movies, music, images, or anything else emerging from that shiny rectangle. Our life energy is drained, and we often feel exhausted after a few hours of such an activity.
And much of our free time we spend immersed in endless contents these devices offer. We have become the society of gadget-addicts.
Wouldn't be awesome if we could reverse this situation somehow? Is it possible to actually transform all these gadgets into gateways to conscious living? Of course it is.
Is it possible to actually transform all these gadgets into gateways to conscious living? Of course it is.
One of the ways to turn this immersing habit into a portal to inner freedom is this meditation. Here are the steps you may follow:
Before you begin, it is necessary to become familiar with the terms “physical attention” and “mental attention.”
By physical attention, we mean to direct our eyes toward something in front of us.
On the other hand, mental attention implies an intense awareness of something, which means focusing our mind on that (regardless of our eyes’ direction).
1. Focusing on the phone’s frame
You can begin this meditation in whatever position or situation you find yourself in. Whether you are sitting, lying down, or standing, you can do this brief exercise, as long as you hold the phone or some other device in your hand.
First, while still looking at the phone’s screen, become aware of its frame or bezels. Extend your mental attention on the frame. Remember, your eyes are physically still directed toward the center of the device’s display, while you are becoming more aware of the device’s edges.
If a thought or emotion arises, just accept it. If you find a related tension in your body – accept that as well, and return to meditation.
2. Sensing the phone
Now, while still being aware of the phone’s edges, become aware of the gadget as a whole. As you are holding it, feel its surface and weight.
So, your mental attention should now encompass the phone’s display, the edges, and your senses of its surface and weight. All the while, keep your physical attention on the screen.
What is Consciousness?
To discuss the great mystery of gaps in consciousness and their meaning, we should define what is consciousness in the first place. Most of the scientific authorities agree it is a state of awareness of one’s environment and an ability to respond to various external stimuli. In a broader sense, we can even include awareness of self, which implies the state of being self-conscious.
From a spiritual point of view, consciousness is impersonal and inherently independent of mind, body, matter, energy, space and time. Related to that, consciousness can be unlimited, which is its true nature, or seemingly limited.
Unlimited consciousness is actually the Primordial Oneness, infinite, omnipresent, eternal, without any boundaries of mind, space and time.
On the other hand, limited consciousness is apparently constricted to the dynamic points of view. The word “dynamic” here indicates moving by the limitations of space and time. We, as conscious beings, or any other conscious entities, are examples of limited consciousness.
Indeed, during our wakeful time, our consciousness is severely confined by space-time. So, by the gaps in consciousness, we mean discontinuities in the stream of limited consciousness, with no memories of these periods whatsoever.
By the gaps in consciousness, we mean discontinuities in the stream of limited consciousness, with no memories of these periods whatsoever.
Continuity and Discontinuity of Consciousness
The discontinuous nature of our everyday consciousness is evident. Indeed, there are many gaps in our awareness. For example, we sleep regularly, and the state of deep sleep naturally interrupts our conscious presence. There are also other states of mind in which we are not aware at all – coma, vegetative state, anesthesia, etc.
Note that in our awake time there are many smaller and unnoticeable discontinuities of our awareness during so-called visual saccades (quick movements of eyes between phases of fixation in the same direction) when our conscious responsiveness is turned off. Nevertheless, these small but frequent blackouts are very hard to notice, and there is always a pretty firm notion of the continuity in awareness.
What happens with consciousness during all these discontinuities? Does it simply disappear, or something happens but we don’t retain any memory of that?
Windows to Oneness
Consciousness cannot be absent. It cannot disappear. It cannot be annihilated as it is present everywhere, in everything. It is impossible for us to become nothingness in the nihilistic sense if something conscious is already there. That’s why those continuity gaps are, in fact, windows to the higher levels of our existence or even to the Primordial Oneness. And those discontinuities are persistently repetitive.
From the point of view of our limited minds, during the continuity gaps such as deep sleep, there is no consciousness, no time, so we merely jump on to the next period of being conscious.
From a broader perspective, the gaps are only occurring from the vantage point of our limited consciousness, not within the unlimited consciousness. As said before, consciousness cannot ever be absent, anywhere. So, in these periods, our limited point of view shifts to its background consciousness, or “ancestral consciousness.” Our limited, individual consciousness becomes one with the much broader consciousness of our Soul, which is aware of many other lives or existences which we can consider as “ours,” and the continued conscious existence between these lives.
To be more precise, during our continuity gaps, we experience all other lives or continual points of view of our higher-level ancestral being, or our Soul. But there is no memory of that when we awaken to the normal state of consciousness.
During our continuity gaps, we experience all other lives or continual points of view of our higher-level ancestral being, or our Soul. But there is no memory of that when we awaken to the normal state of consciousness.
Beings at All Levels of Existence Also Experience Discontinuities
Our Higher Self, or Soul, despite its much broader vantage point, is also a limited entity. Therefore, it must have analogous gaps in their consciousness’ continuity.
Similar to our everyday life, from the point of view of our Higher Self, there are no discontinuities in consciousness at all. Our Soul merely skips the time of the gap.
But, from an even broader perspective, there are such periods of our Soul’s life. In those interruptions, the Infinite Consciousness experiences the conscious time of an even higher-level ancestral being (higher Soul). Still, there is no memory of these experiences.
How many higher levels of our existence are there? It’s a mystery. However, the Primordial Oneness is the highest level of consciousness, and it experiences all at once, outside of space-time continuum and has the knowledge of everything and everyone.
In those discontinuities of the stream of consciousness, our individual point of view, regardless its level, sometimes completely dissolves and our consciousness even merges with the Unlimited Consciousness, the Primordial Oneness. That consciousness experiences everything and anything instantly, in no time and no space. Therefore, it knows everything; it takes all possible points of view in all universes ever. This is the most natural state of Being. Hence, during the continuity gaps we are not staring the face of God – in fact, we are becoming God, or the Primordial Oneness.
During some of those gaps, the Unlimited Consciousness, or Primordial Oneness, experiences all the lives of all conscious entities, including their past and future span, within the entirety of Existence. In all of those lives, similar continuity gaps are also happening myriads of times, which also allow experiences of all other existences, including this one. Yet, there is no memory of that when we awaken.
During these discontinuities we are not staring the face of God – in fact, we are becoming God, or the Primordial Oneness.
The Memory as the Key to Individual Life
Our consciousness is constricted to this specific point of view of this concrete person. It depends on time and memory. Since there is no time during these gaps, there could be no memory of any experience within the gaps. The individual life continues as there are no memories of other points of view which were experienced. The only memory present in the normal state of consciousness is that of this particular individual existence. So, there is an absolute impression of our personal continuity.
We, as God, or the Primordial Oneness, are experiencing all other points of view in all universes during the continuity gaps. Every one of us, as a particular being, seemingly experiences a continuous lifetime because of the lack of memory of neither of those lifetimes.
That’s why the gaps in the apparent stream of our everyday consciousness are critical. From “time” to “time,” we return to our creator, become one with Him or Her, and deeply refresh and re-vitalize our illusionary existence. These discontinuities are not only inevitable; they are essential for our life and spiritual growth.
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