Each morning, we wake up from our sleep. Some of us recall a dream or two. We had an inner experience exclusively in our minds. But some mornings, our mental car engines begin to rev, and our odometers haven't moved a mile.
During these dreamless states of being, our hearts continue to beat, and our lungs inhale and exhale. (My wife claims this night-time breathing is an obnoxiously noisy process for me).
After several hours of one of these dreamless states of being, we recall absolutely nothing. Whether our minds were active or not, our bodies lay still but continued default operations. Our conscious minds were vacant of experience.
Where were "we" during that time? Did we have a self? Where was our "identity"?
Our sense of self is quite dear to us for a good reason. Even those who feel a divine or moral imperative to love others will acknowledge that these ambitions are obsolete if we do not exist.
In one of the final scenes of Harry Potter, the main character poses a similarly shaded question to a wise sage, "Is this all real? Or is it just happening inside my head?"
The reply he receives is, "Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry; why should that mean that it's not real?"
In life's journey, there comes a day (or many) when we find our selves asking, who am I? Where am I? What am I?
Sometimes the question comes gently. Perhaps while strolling through nature, you lose track of your worries and anxieties, and a blade of grass moves with such grace that you find yourself having a nearly out-of-body experience.
Other times there is a desperate cry from deep within, or an intense force interrogating you. Maybe your suffering has you feeling utterly hopeless about everything. You are ready to surrender your identity if you can just escape the pain.
Sometimes we awaken with a jolt from a suspenseful nightmare, other times our eyes open as gently as the quiet dawn rises.
Are we physical matter? Are we the sensations we experience? Am I my perceptions, my mental formations, my subjectivity? My emotions? Am I my consciousness? My opinions? My awareness?
Or we could grab hold of the certainty of groups, other people's assertions, and say, "Here it is! Brilliant, good people believe this. If you disagree, that's bad news for you."
If you have endured what I've written so far, your interest alone is proof that your innate quest for an identity is still intact.
Something is calling to you. From where does the call come?
And are you longing for something permanent? An eternal home? Do you want to exist forever(whatever, whoever YOU are)? Or are you ok with your life, your existence, your experience only happening temporarily?
I have nothing to offer you in the form of an answer to who you are, what you are, and so on. I do not hold the keys to the door you wish to enter. I do not even know which door it is you are meant to open.
But I will offer a quiet encouragement that I believe is worthy of consideration. I think YOU have what you need to take the next step. I think you know which door you ought to open, and I think you hold the key in your hand this very moment.
"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." (Joseph Campbell?)
There is a reason I've hidden in darkness. It's not by mistake that I have suppressed much of my experience and many of my thoughts into my subconscious. I was the one who did it. And I have the choice to confront my subconscious consciously.
Did I mention that I'm asking questions that terrify me? That my breath gets deep, breathy, and intentional when I merely type these words? That I feel pressure and constriction in my chest?
I feel like a lion is about to eat me.
Have you ever seen planet Earth's core? They say that there is a layer of magma (see: hot, body-melting fire) in between the center and the surface.
I've heard it said that sometimes you have to go through hell to get to heaven. You must die before you can live. You must lose yourself to find yourself.
It takes a great act of courage to go into that dark cave you fear to enter. In a way, it takes a willingness to die. It requires courage to let go of an identity.
Our fear of physical death is monstrous if we exclusively identify with our physical selves. If we believe the physical body is only part of who we are, not the whole, we will still have a measure of this fear.
Our fears hold power if we are unwilling to surrender, to allow, and to accept the loss of identity each piece's absence would ensue.
This stage of thought is where I typically run, hide, or freeze. "Then I don't want to identify with anything!" "If I can't have it all, forever, I don't want any of it!" (Ironically, I used to say things like this to my parents all the time as a kid. Quite stubborn, eh?).
Instead of running away, hiding, or freezing up, I want to go into the fear. Do you know what I find?
Pain, yes. Troubles, yes. Humiliation, yes. But so much more. I often find that the very thing I suspected would be debilitating is catalytic to my sense of self and identity. My walls dissolve, and my presence enlargens. My connection increases. I become closer to the infinite as my boundaries reveal their illusory nature.
Taking the path of descent leads to ascent, death leads to life, and surrender leads to glory. Walking into confusion leads to clarity.
Walk dead-straight into the cave of mysterious fear, and claim the reward of love which awaits you. Let your heart bleed. Quit holding it all in!
Exploring the mystery of the self is what this website is (currently) all about. Some of what I write is merely the surface facets of our identity, some of it I try to dive a bit deeper.
Good morning, mind, where have you been? The day is coming. It's time to wake up, sleepy-head!
Keep going deeper and deeper, exploring your self.
We all need help with this. Some of us need to do these things in the presence of others.
This journey is sincerely challenging for me. I hope that the things I share help you gain courage, insight, and energy for your path of self-awareness.
Below, you will find some more abstract and pithy words to ponder at, wonder at, and enjoy.
Photo Credit: Matty Adame
The infinite must include everything, right? Otherwise, it would have a boundary which is self-contradictory by definition.
Our growth toward the infinite depends on our willingness to press our boundary limits of "self." Our fears illuminate the next steps in our epic journeys. You have to swim through the molten lava if you want to get to the center of the Earth. The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.
You were once dust. One day you shall be dust again. Perhaps now you are water, and you are becoming rain?
"This is, as they say, YOUR PARTY" -- look, friend, it's your party. Are you living it? You are more than just a bundle of conditioned reflexes.
"Do not pity the dead Harry, pity the living. And above all, all those who live without love."
Awakening. Salvation. Enlightenment. Conversion. Inception, conception.
Come out from behind that rock, loved one. Your Lover is here.
"I think therefore I am."
"The day you cease to travel, you will have arrived."
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes."⠀
– Marcel Proust (paraphrased)
Everyone now and again wonders about those questions that have no ready answers: first cause, God’s existence, what happens when the curtain goes down and nothing stops it, not kissing, not going to the mall, not the Super Bowl.⠀
“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.⠀“Do you have the answers? And if you do, would you tell me?”⠀
The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,” they said. “But as you can see, we are just now entirely busy being roses.”⠀
- Mary Oliver
"If you had never seen an animal in your life, and one day you found a tail -- just a tail -- and somebody told you, "That's a tail," would you have any idea of what it was if you had no idea what an animal was?"⠀
- Anthony de Mello
"Don't seek the truth; just drop your opinions."
"Those who know, do not say; those who say, do not know." - Lao Tzu
“You did not find the Great Love except by finding yourself too, and you cannot find your True Self without falling into the Great Love.”⠀
- Richard Rohr