That is the Vedic Psychology 101. When you get this, much changes. Almost too much.
Here’s Swami Bhaktipada on this point and then a word or two from yours truly:
“I am this body.” This is the greatest mistake of all, the mistake underlying all other mistakes. We are not these bodies. This perception is the first in self-realization and is the basis of all yoga. [...] It is this false identification that brings about the miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death. “You are not that body,” yogis have taught their students since time immemorial.
In Lotus Effect, a book of Vedic self-discovery through informational detox of false selves, I argued the same: this idea – the idea that “I am not this body” – is a door at the end of what you thought was a dead-end, a beginning of fearlessness.
This body that you take for mani-pedi – you are not it.
This body you take to the gym to work out – you are not it.
Even the eyes you are reading this with – you can live without them too; so you are not these eyes either.
That’s Vedic Psychology 101.
Vedic Psychology 201 begins with the question: “If not this body, then who am I?”
To graduate, skip to 301: leave the “Who am I?” question unanswered.
Related: Lotus Effect: Shedding Suffering & Rediscovering Your Essential Self (Somov, 2010)
For years I’ve been thinking of myself as just another modern-day ape. This line of thought – that we are nothing more and nothing less than monkeys – is powerfully humanizing. Here’s what Mahesh Bhatt had to say about one of the most dangerous minds of the 20th century, U.G. Krishnamurti, in “Mind is a Myth.”
UG, sitting bewildered and flabbergasted on the little bench, looked down at his body. But this time he looked without the cultural background that identified him as “male,” “Indian,” “Brahmin,” “seeker,” “world traveler,” “public speaker,” “civilized gentleman,” “virtuous person,” et.c. Seeing instead a warm-blooded mammal, a calm, harmless, fully-clothed monkey. The slate had been miraculously wiped clean, culture and self had been utterly undone in a twinkling, and what was left was a graceful, simple, well-mannered ape, aware, intelligent, and free of all pretense and self-absorption.
I read this good many years ago and recognized my own modest metamorphosis in this. And I thought that I better share this little known passage some day. And while I continued to live this truth that, like UG, like you, I am just a well-mannered modern-day ape, haven’t gotten to writing about this until today.
Why today? No big reason. Just stumbled upon a colorful issue of “Monkey Business: a new writing from Japan,” a zine of sorts. Picked it up, not really knowing what it is, for a few quarters at a local Goodwill store. I flipped through it in search of a UG-like revelation. And found a few poetic passages that fit the meme.
Here’s one related thought from “Monkey Tanka” by Shion Mizuhara:
Our forebears are
Risen from the apes.
That’s it. Not much but plenty for me. I have a hunch Shion is not just being Darwinian, but tuning in to something very basic about what we still are.
And here are a few lines from Masayo Koike’s poem, “When Monkeys Sing:”
Monkeys run deep, they are to our existence
As miso paste in soup.
Monkeys are profound, the miso of existence.
“Wow!” this monkey thought to itself: “It’s time to write that little piece about the modern-day ape that …
I reject zoos. If I didn’t have a child young enough to still see zoos as entertainment rather than incarceration (conservation rationalizations aside), I’d never go to a zoo. But as it stands, I even have a yearly membership.
“Consciousness in the face of another. Look into someone else’s face and see the consciousness in it, and also a particular shade of consciousness. You see on it, in it, joy, indifference, interest, excitement, dullness, etc. The light in the face of another.”
Typically in a zoo I see no joy or excitement or interest or light, but plenty of indifference and dullness – in the eyes of the bored sitting gorilla, in the eyes of crowded fish in the tank, in the eyes of a pacing elephant in a cage.
Yes, when I am in a zoo, I do see consciousness in the face of another – that’s what I see the most, not the stripes on a zebra or the big ears on the elephant or the yellowish fur on the polar bear. I see that with which I see my own self when I look inside – my own original face. Which is why I, a fellow primate, reject zoos as a social institution.
A zoo is a correctional facility for the innocent – a consciousness trap.
Change, growth is often invisible. Too subtle, too gradual, too incremental to notice. Sometimes too erratic, too spontaneous – each precedent, each pattern-break as messy as a brush stroke. Yet, eventually a healing vector emerges. A pattern of wellbeing begins to evidence itself.
Shinagawa Tetsuzan, a Buddhist calligrapher and a poet, wrote:
“Don’t know when, but in the garden of our house a young bamboo is out, growing an inch a day.”
Therapy, as I see it, is a mirror that highlights the slow calligraphy of change: clients tend to be surprised when I point out to them how they used to respond and how they respond now. Sometimes they themselves know that something has changed, but they often lack the “outside data.” Pointing out this growth is catalytic: a mere juxtaposition of the old self with the newer self is sometimes all the intervention that is needed.
Once we become aware of our capacity to grow, we grow.
Related: Ordinary Perfection
Most of the time we move forward/onward without any philosophy of living, without any ideology, mindlessly!
In mindlessness we are all equal – from saint to sinner (not that I believe in these distinctions).
But when something aversive (bad) happens to us or those that we relate to (i.e. identify with), our implicit philosophy of living crystallizes into a situation-specific judgment, i.e a “stone.” (as in a “stone of judgement”). Emotionally, we experience it as anger or rage (or sadness (if temperamentally on the quieter side) .(Parenthetically, anger and rage are highly exploitable, sadness not so much.)
A good while ago, a brilliant but very dry (not unlike myself (I mean dry not brilliant)) Baltic philosopher, Immanuel Kant, talked about a-prioris of reasoning: he’d say that we cannot not but perceive time and space, that perceiving things as being spatially arranged or temporally ordered is our built-in hardware or software. He’d call it “the nature of the mind.” I’d call it “the nature of the body.” But you can call this anything you want, but it makes no ontological difference).
(Parenthetically, I realize that most of the minds reading this are either being stoned-to-death by phones-going-crazy or some other jazz-of-living b.s. (which is why forgiveness is the essential lubricant of living)).
Same goes for moral reasoning: we presume that others have reasons/motives and that they have choice/make decisions and that they, at the very least know who/what they are.
Nothing could be further from the truth: we are chaotic.
Half the time (maybe even most of the time) we don’t consciously know what drives us (why we do what we do or why we want what we want).
Most of the time (maybe even all the time) we are on autopilot – mindlessly re-enacting (rather than consciously choosing) old adaptive behavioral programs.
And all the time (except for an occasional moment of meditational mysticism) we have no f-ing clue who/what we are in this Cosmos.
Which is why I encourage you all to forgive – to forgive on apriori basis, i.e. in advance, before you even bother with trying to understand what the heck happened …
Self is a Gestalt: an illusory Oneness made of (information) parts.
In mindlessness, body leads mind.
In mindfulness, mind leads body.
Reverse the flow as needed.
Pattern Interruption by Somov
A break-through begins with a pattern break.
That’s it: pattern interruption restores operational freedom.
Break out of the prison of pattern, Luddite of Consciousness.
related: Choice Awareness Training: Mindfulness and Logotherapy in Treatment of Addiction (Somov, P)
Matter that sees, feels and thinks is not dead.
You are Living (Conscious) Matter.
But we are not things.
When you walk into a river, you bump against a current as if this current were a thing. This current is always there – it was there yesterday when you went in for a swim and it is there today when you go in for a swim. But a current is not a thing. A current is a process not a fixity. And so are we. We are not things, we are… autopoietic currents. We are… processes. We are… presence-in-progress… am-ness-in-progress…
In fact, there are no “things” per se. Even what we consider to be “things” are not immutable, unchanging objects. Even “things” are ever-dynamic currents of molecular, atomic, subatomic change. We only objectify these processes as “things” because we are unable to visually detect their ever morphing nature.
The Universe is a fluid (dynamic) Oneness. And so are you…
Stewart White makes a good point (among so many!) in the Unobstructed Universe:
Sometimes it is necessary to take away from a man everything he holds dear before, in despair, he will sit down alone to find that which cannot be taken away from him, that which, despite all, endures and lives within his consciousness.
I call this process of stripping every-thing away “identity detox.” But whatever the name, notice the things that you are not so as to understand the process that you are.
related: Lotus Effect: Shedding Suffering and Rediscovering Your Essential Self (Somov, 2010)