The Faceless Seer
– Meditate on The Nature of Awareness –
We all spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves. We think about what we like and don’t like. We think about where we’ve been, about what we’ve done, and about where we’re going. We obsess about how people view us, about what we’ve accomplished, about what titles we hold or what possessions we have. We stress over things we should or shouldn’t have said.
And we just continue to accumulate these thoughts, we continue to build out and frame this elaborate story that houses our sense of self.
I wonder, though, what would happen if you actually looked inside. What would you find if you opened the door and looked for your ‘self,’ if you tried to locate the ‘I’ who is reaching for the latest phone, the ‘I’ who needs bigger boobs, the ‘I’ who is living for likes on social media? Who is this ‘I’ that worries so much about what other people think?
Who are ‘you‘, really?
You talk repeatedly about yourself – about ‘my’ things, ‘my’ pain, ‘my’ body. You say, ‘I’m’ hungry, ‘I’m’ angry, ‘I’m’ depressed. But where is this thing you call ‘I’? What is it? What is it like? What is its nature?
Because “I” can’t be removed from you, because it’s essential to you, only you can investigate it for yourself. So, go ahead, take a look. What is this thing you call “I”? Where is it? What is it like? What qualities does it have? What is its nature?
Weird questions? Yeah, I know. “What do you mean ‘What is it?’ and ‘Where is it?’ It’s me, duh. I’m right here.”
I know. But just humor me for a moment. Try to relax. Maybe take a few deep breaths. And then take a good look at your experience – at whatever there is to be known in this moment.
Now, ask yourself: ‘What is there to be known? What is here in my ever-changing experience to be noticed? Are there sensations in the body? Are there sounds? Are there perceptions? Are there thoughts and feelings?’
Okay. And what about “You”? Where are you in this picture? Where are you in experience? Are you somewhere apart from sounds and sensations, apart from thoughts and feelings? Are you somewhere behind your face, somewhere at the center of experience, directing attention at what there is to be known — at perceptions, thoughts, and feelings?
If you think so, what happens when you turn attention around, when you follow your gaze or a sound or a bodily sensation back to the place where you seem to be directing attention from? Can you find your self? Can you find the “I”? Is there anything stable and unchanging?
You might have to tune-up your concentration a bit to do what I’m asking, but it’s possible to witness something remarkable here. When you really look for the “I”, when you turn attention around and follow an object back to the place where “you” seem to be directing attention from, you won’t find your “self” – you won’t find the “I”.
Rather, what’s there to be noticed in each moment is simply the wide-open space of experience — the continuous flow of the ever-changing contents of awareness. And the feeling that you are behind your face directing attention out at the world or into your mind or body is just another content of awareness. It arises and is known in the wide, open field of awareness. Otherwise, how could you know it?
Who is this faceless, formless witness of experience? Who are You? What is this thing you call “I”?
So many of us take this little “I” or the ego for granted. We never stop to take a real interest in it. But once we do, once we try to find it and understand it, we realize that ‘I’ – or this feeling of ‘I’ – is just the result of thinking without knowing we’re thinking, dreaming without knowing we’re dreaming. It’s what it feels like when awareness has lost itself in its contents; when awareness identifies with what is arising.
No content of your experience, however, no object of your awareness, no thought, feeling, or perception, can be who or what “You” are. The dream vapors of experience vanish almost the moment they’re known. So, how can this next thought, whatever its content, be who “You” are? It can’t.
“You”, then, are no thing, though you know, encompass, and contain all things.
“You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.” — Alan Watts
There’s no separation in existence. The world, experience, is whole. How, then, can you be anything less than it – Love, God, Awareness, or whatever else you wanna call that which encompasses all things.
This Love, this connection, is always there for you to notice, right on the surface. But because we’ve conditioned our thoughts around the ego, it will take time to unwind them. It will take time cultivate a direct understanding of Love that you can carry with you always.
If this is something you’re interested in, if you do decide to commit to a formal practice like vipassana, please allow patience for yourself. Thoughts are slippery. It will take time. But each time you practice, each time you catch yourself lost in thought, identified with its contents, that is progress. Take joy in that moment. And also use those moments to cultivate some gratitude – be grateful that you have been able to wake up from that dream.
Keep practicing and see what insights await your discovery. Look directly for yourself to see, to know, that there is actually no space between you and what is known.
And as you continue to experience this insight directly, as you become more aware of the true nature of your mind, watch what happens to the character and quality of your experience. More and more, I think you’ll find yourself in extraordinary spaces of possibility – in open, soft, warm, and expansive states of being.
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. Pay close attention in each moment to that space in which everything is appearing and being known. And with mindfulness – with an open and sincere interest – ask yourself, ‘What is there to be known?’
Nothing, I’d argue, is worthier of your investigation than awareness. After all, worth, significance, and value all arise in it. Awareness is what gives any thing — art, music, understanding — any significance at all. It is the substance of knowing; it is the substance of all things.
I encourage you, then, to practice insight meditation, I encourage you to keep awareness close as you travel through this awe-inspiring Space of Possibility that “You” are.
Now, before you go, get your ass over here, cuddle your warm face to mine, and soak with me for a moment in this astonishing space of existence. Feel its warmth, its love, its security. Feel its expansiveness, its vastness, its boundlessness. Now, recognize in a flash that all this is a reflection of You.