May 21, 2010

Understanding the Self

Why do i feel what I feel?

Why am i angry? Why am i sad? Why am i happy? Why am i jealous? Why am i afraid? Why am i envious? Why do i need to know why?

Like i read in “Eat, love, pray”, ‘Why is a hard question to answer in any language’; nonetheless is part of everyone’s effort to understand the self.

Notice that i write the word i not capitalized – which it is grammatically incorrect in English – this i do in order to remind myself of the danger of taking my self (I) to seriously and in giving myself more importance than what it is. My I is already a huge source, enough to deal with, without having to capitalize it. Me, mine, I – just imagine.

Understanding the self is not only a human challenge, it is also the first goal in all religions, practices, cultures, story tales, families, rituals…Know thy self…the first rune in the Celtic culture.

To start from the beginning, “I” is made of Earth, Fire, Water, Ether and Metal; elements of universal creation manipulated by holy science through the wisdom of the atom across the spectrum of light. Now I am here, now I am not ~ eternally.

Then, I is relative to reality as is.

Let’s talk about its physical reality for today:

The Self

1. When dependent on the six sense-spheres (sight, hearing, speech, touch, taste, mind), contact arises;

2. Then, dependent on contact, sensation arises;

3. And so, Dependent on sensation, craving arises. …

…and we come to the I: I want, I need, I love, I hate, I, me, mine.

How to understand the self?

“Our breathing patterns reflect our emotional and mental states. The breath is jerky during anger, momentarily ceases during periods of fear, gasps during amazement, chokes during sadness, sighs in relief, is slow and steady during periods of concentration, and changes during periods in which the mind is subject to passing thoughts and emotions of a random nature. While it is difficult to control the mind and emotions directly, they can be mastered indirectly by using the breath.” (M. Govindan, M.A.)

Impermanence: the key to successfully understanding

We can certainly say that the understanding of the self begins with the observation of the self. Several different starting points are observing respiration, giving attention to bodily movements. It is from these points that we can progressively develop our understanding. However, no matter from which point the journey starts, stages come which everyone must pass through on the way to the final goal.

These stages are:

1. One dwells observing the phenomenon of arising.

2. One dwells observing the phenomenon of passing away. 3.

3. One dwells observing the phenomenon of arising a passing away.

Unless these three levels of Impermanence are experienced, we will not develop wisdom– the equanimity based on the experience of impermanence.

We don’t need to Change ourselves

Whatever answers you find to your questions of Why, start from the right understanding of the self ~ I am earth, I am water, I am ether, I am metal, I am fire, I am millions of atoms which look like mini solar systems and behave like one ~ then it will be clear that the drama of the Self -YOURself- (your anger, your happiness, your jealousy, your fear, your pride, your envious self) are only but the contents of your mind: mind being  one of the six sense-spheres that dependent on contact create a sensation and dependent on your sensation (pleasant of unpleasant) create your cravin… bringing you back to the I, me, mine.

To close with good advice I will step away from myself and I am going to use Pema Chödrón’s word when I tell you that while working with understanding the self, we often think that, somehow, we are going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who we really are. It is a bit like saying, “if I jog, I’ll be a much better person.” “f I could only get a nicer house, I’d be a better person.” “If I could meditate and calm down, I’d be a better person.” Or the scenario may be that we find fault with others; we might say, “if it weren’t for my husband, I’d have a perfect marriage.” If it weren’t for the fact that my boss and I can’t get along, my job would be just great. And “I if weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.” But Understanding ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. Loving-kindness means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change our-selves. Understanding ourselves isn’t about trying to throw our-selves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That’s the ground, that’s what we study, that’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

…Then the transient journey of this material life will be worthwhile.



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