Monday, April 28, 2008

The What and the Who of You

"Accept everything about yourself--I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end--no apologies, no regrets." -- Clark Moustakas

Herein lies the power - the ability and willingness to accept absolutely everything about what AND who you are. Not only that, but to accept EVERYTHING unconditionally, that comes down the pike. Our mind (not our true nature) wants to evaluate everything and accept some things and reject others. So while Mr. Moustakas is correct, I would go even further and say, one must accept everything, not only about yourself, but about everyone, everything, unconditionally. How does one do this? By disappearing. At every moment, thousands of things are occurring to which we give no thought and no judgment - cars passing by, little sounds or feelings, an infinitude of sensory inputs large and small that arise at every moment to which we pay little or no heed. But then that one, that particular thing comes along and we find ourselves happy, sad, angry, or whatever. And our reaction to that, or our response to that, is then to evaluate the fact that we evaluated. "I should not be sad or angry or grieving, but I should be happy, blissful, loving, compassionate, etc. Why? Who says so?

The mind says that we should always be happy, that happiness is the great goal to be achieved. Again, who says so? Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing bad about happiness. Happiness is a great 'place', but basing one's happiness ON happiness, well, it's a little impractical. Happiness, like unhappiness, come and go, and as the Gita says, "Happiness and distress, like heat and cold, come and go. One must learn to tolerate BOTH, without being disturbed."  Or as that great 20th century philosopher, Dolly Parton says, "The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."

Not surprisingly though, is that, as Mr. Moustakas says, it begins with the complete acceptance of YOU - all of you. If it is your intention to transcend your 'You-ness", you cannot do so until you accept your 'You-ness". 

Let me put it this way. I like to break it down into a basic duality. There is a 'who' you are and a 'what' you are.  Most everyone is well versed with who they are: it is the personhood - man, woman, spiritual, material, doctor, lawyer, slacker, cool, loser, stressed, abused, ecstatic... all of the physical, mental, emotional stuff, past and present, that makes up the essential nature of [ insert your name here].  The difficulty, is that the mind likes to evaluate this who-ness. Some is good and some is bad. "I will accept the 'good' parts of who I am, but reject the 'bad' parts of who I am." But in doing so, we reject the Truth - the truth of who we are. We begin to look at these things and realize that the truth isn't pretty. We similarly look around the world, and although our tendency is to similarly see it with rose colored glasses we realized things are pretty fracked up and that the truth there isn't particularly pretty either. This is the beginning of growth.

Now, besides the WHO of us there is the WHAT of us. The What is not the body, nor the mind, nor the emotions, nor the history, nor the beliefs and so on and so on. The What of us is that which precedes all of that. It is the recognition that arises on deep inquiry into what it is that precedes even the sense of "I".  When one abides as "I" (or as Ramana called it - I-I, and Nisargadatta called it "I AM") one begins to recognize or REALize that what one is is unbounded Awareness, perfect silent stillness, the very space within which the 'who' of you and everything else in the universe, incuding the universe itself, arises.

The WHAT we are is aware OF the WHO we are and completely identifies as that who. Part of the who, the mind, evaluates the rest of the who, and the world, and evaluates and judges it. The WHAT we are is aware of all of this, and apparently 'constricts' to identify with that who-ness. I know - pretty damn confusing. However, this can be remedied in part by simply inquiring, "What is it that is aware of this confusion?" 

Traditionally, as with Ramana Maharshi and others, the question has been put, "Who am I?" This is actually a trick question designed to show you that you are NOT who you think, but something prior to that, which in this case, I am referring to as the What you are - unbounded consciousness.  Unless and until you can truly REALize, concretely, tangibly, that What-ness, you will continue to identify as the who. In fact, you will BE that who.

Put another way, in terms of the Yoga Sutras - "Union (yoga) is the elimination of the perceived limitations in consciousness. Then the establishment of the Seer (the What of you) in it's original true nature. Otherwise conformity TO the limitations (the Who of you)."  In other words, we BECOME the who. Like water, which unbounded is, in a sense, formless, when poured into a container, takes on the shape of that container, in a sense, becoming that container. Unbounded awareness, totally identified with the container, becomes that container - the What becomes the Who, forgetting it's real unbounded what nature.

In reality, the what and the who are not different. The waves on the ocean are not separate from the depths of the ocean. It is all ocean. The who is not separate from the what. They are ONE thing. All that arises in consciousness is non-different than the consciousness within which it arises. However, the lop-sided identification with Who, including the mind which evaluates and judges, causes untold amounts of suffering, to oneself and 'others'. Being grounded, however, in the WHAT we are totally diffuses this situation. The WHO is accepted as it is. It doesn't mean that it can't or won't change. But the judgment around it is released. As Carl Jung said, "We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses." So, accept the WHO you are, but more importantly, inquire deeply and repeatedly into and truly recognize the WHAT you are. That is Freedom!