The Disentanglement of the Self
It is common for people who encounter this teaching to fear a dissolution of their identity. What do we fear disappearing with the recognition of our true nature? It’s true that what seems to define us as a person — our thoughts, feelings, ideas, name and form — is going to disappear.
If we were truly afraid of letting go of the individual characteristics of our particular body and mind, we would be afraid of falling asleep at night. But we do so happily; we even look forward to it! Without a moment’s thought we give up our body, our mind and our world as we fall asleep, and are left only as the peaceful Self – pure Awareness – that we essentially are.
We don’t miss our body and our mind when we are asleep. We’re perfectly happy there without them. Then, in the morning, we happily ‘get dressed’ in our body and mind again. First we put on our mind, then our body, and then the world.
All the time, underneath the body/mind/world that we assume, we are always this peaceful Self that is inherently unattached to the body, mind and world. What we essentially are is no more attached to them than it is the clothes we’re wearing. We don’t have to work hard to detach ourselves from thoughts, sensations and perceptions. We just see that what we essentially are is already unattached to any particular object.
So, why are we afraid of letting a collection of thoughts, sensations and perceptions disappear? What do we think we are going to lose? The reason we fear it is that we have invested our identity in a collection of objects — ideas, knowledge, history and the sensations that we know as the body — in something that comes and goes.
To say, ‘we have invested our identity’ means that our essential Being of pure Awareness, or the simple experience of being aware, has mixed itself up with a collection of thoughts and feelings to such an extent that it can no longer distinguish itself from them. By allowing our Self to be entangled with an object or a collection of objects, we have allowed our true nature to be veiled.
Once we have consented to limit ourselves in time and space and seem to have become, as a result, a temporary, finite entity that lives in and as the body, we are destined to experience in a way that is consistent with that consent, and are thus destined to suffer. The experience of suffering is like a red flag signalling us, ‘Stop, you have mistaken yourself for an object. You have consented to limit yourself to a mind and a body.’
From the point of view of Awareness, which is the only real point of view, there is no veiling of itself. To say that we have allowed ourselves to become entangled with the body and the mind is a concession to the apparently separate self that believes and feels itself to be temporary and finite. So the statement is made to that apparent one that we believe and feel ourselves to be.
The implication of the phrase, ‘We have allowed ourselves to become entangled’ is the possibility that we could not allow it, that we could choose not to become entangled. This then raises the question, ‘Do “I”, the separate self, have the free will to choose whether or not I become entangled with the body/mind?’
The idea that we have the freedom to choose whether or not to become entangled with thoughts and feelings is a concession to the separate self we believe and feel ourselves to be. From the separate self’s point of view, it has choice, freedom. If we think we are a separate self, then by definition we feel that we are making choices.
For this reason the teaching says, ‘You have the choice. You have consented to limit yourself. You can choose not to. Choose to disentangle yourself. Make that your first choice in life, to disentangle yourself from the body and the mind and to know yourself as you truly are.’
As an apparently separate self, the highest choice we can make is to turn our attention away from the objects that we seem to know, towards the Knowing with which they are known. Making that choice effects this disentanglement of our self from the body/mind, and, as a result, our true nature stands revealed as it is.
When the mind returns to the heart — when the separate self is divested of its separateness and stands revealed as the true and only Self of pure Awareness — it becomes clear that there was never a separate self to begin with, and therefore the question as to whether or not that separate self has choice is moot.
The choice of refusing to be limited by the body and mind is open to everybody. At every moment there is the possibility to turn the light of our attention around on itself so as to know the nature of our Self, that is, the nature of the Knowing with which we know our experience.
This experience of being aware has never left us. We have never ceased to be this ‘I am aware’. Just give your attention to that. Instead of shining your attention on an object — a thought, feeling, sensation or perception — shine that Awareness on the experience of being aware, in other words, on itself. Allow your attention to come back to itself, just to rest in itself. That experience is peace itself.
Just abide there. Give your attention to your Self. Allow the Self to give its attention to itself. You’ll simply forget about the fear of losing your identity, of disappearing. This knowing or remembering of our own Being – its knowing of itself in us – will formulate itself in the mind as a kind of conviction: I am not just aware; I am eternally aware. I have never experienced myself disappearing. I never go anywhere. I have never been hurt. No experience has ever left a trace on me, yet I am totally intimate with all experience. I never die.