More and more, the old geezer who goes out to buy the paper in the morning dressed in his pyjamas has become an example of enlightenment to me as the years have gone by. For somebody who has been as obsessed with his appearance as I have been in the past – and still can be to some degree – the pyjama-clad whispy haired old nutter in the newsagents represents the promise of freedom: the promise of a day in the future when I too will no longer care about other peoples’ perceptions of me (as if they really have any at all), when I will have ceased to identify myself by the outward appearance that I wish to present to the world, when I will be free to just be, because I have experienced enough and learned enough and gained enough wisdom to know that hey, it doesn’t matter. It’s not important.
Nothing matters; nothing’s important. The old man knows this, and as a result he is free.
My “life” has become a series of spiritual awakenings, or if you prefer, moments when I have suddenly remembered the truth. The first of these occurred after a truly mind-changing dose of LSD when I realised for the first time that all is One; that the same stuff that makes up the trees and the birds and the sky and the moon makes up you and me and everything. For the sake of brevity these days I call “it” God.
The second was when I was relieved of my alcoholism, when I learned about (and started to vigorously practice) acceptance.
After that came realisation about my identification with my mind. It came from a whole bunch of different places. I remember, I was attending an “Introduction to Counselling” course at the time (I didn’t want to be a counsellor -I thought I was doing it because it would look good on my CV: actually I was doing it because I was in the process of learning a major life lesson), and the guy who ran the course kept suggesting that we be the observer of our thought processes; that if we made a habit of this we would ultimately realise that we are not our thoughts; neither are we a product of our experiences. Well, I found this all very confusing. At the same time I had several books on the go: “The Power of Now”, by Eckhart Tolle, “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsch, “The Sermon on the Mount” by Emmet Fox and a novel by Stephen King. And they all said the same thing, too. Wandering through town one day I saw a message written on some random guy’s T-shirt, and that said it too. When we need to learn a lesson, the Universe puts it wherever we look. And until we learn it, we’ll keep having it presented to us.
I guarantee if I read those books today, or went on the same course, they would all say something different. And the point is, they did not cause me to have an awakening. They were more like an augury of it. If you’re going to have an awakening, you’re going to have it, regardless of anything you do or don’t do; regardless of any spiritual exercises you may or may not indulge in. You can be wearing yellow spandex trousers and having colonic irrigation in Thailand; you could be a devout atheist who reads the Daily Mail. It doesn’t matter. When it’s your time, it’s your time. It really is out of your hands.
Well, the day came when I stopped thinking for a few seconds. And I was still alive. I was still aware, still conscious, and still me. That’s when I understood, that thought is something that comes from nowhere and goes nowhere, and I can choose to step out of it at any time. The more I remind myself of this, the easier it is to do.
Which leads me to my current lesson, and the reason I started writing this: If I am not my thoughts, or my experiences, who am I?
We all strengthen our sense of individuality (alienation) be defining ourselves in various ways. I have a certain friend who defines himself by his anger. “People like that always make me angry.”
For myself, I have defined myself variously as a guitar player, a drunk, a mod, an intellectual and so on and so forth. It has always seemed important to define myself as something (and it is important to my ego, which thrives on a sense of individuality, alienation, separation), but is it the truth? Well, no, it’s not. I haven’t played the guitar for some time. If I lost my hands I wouldn’t be able to play it at all. I could hardly call myself a guitar player then, could I? And yet I (that entity that I keep trying to define, to pin down, to box and to label) would still be the same. I haven’t had a drink for some time now. Am I still a drunk? Obviously not. So I can’t use that to define myself either.
In fact, upon closer inspection, I am none of these things. Concepts are being constantly discarded. I suspect that at the bottom of it all I will find that I don’t exist as an individual entity at all, but I don’t know for sure, because I’m not there yet. But I will keep you posted.