Do you know the difference between having a thought and being aware that you are having a thought?

Do you know the difference between having a feeling and being aware that you are having a feeling?

Yesterday we talked about how the self does not exist and how to personally investigate this in order to feel confident in this conclusion.  People that become obsessed with discovering the true nature of reality (which could be referred to as “knowing or seeing God”) create the causes and conditions for the direct experience of no-self or emptiness.

The direct experience of no-self or emptiness (also known as the Perfection of Wisdom) is what gives us the power to cut the fetters of limiting misbeliefs about the world and reach enlightenment.  Someone that has this insight is an arya or stream enterer.

I tend to identify more with my mind as being “myself”.  Exercises that use the mind to explore the mind are quite useful in loosening up this identification.  Anyone that spends much time watching their mind objectively will tend to not want to identify with the thinking processes of the mind.  In fact, one may conclude, “I am not my mind, it is possessed!”

The mind generates a long stream of judgements, opinions, repetitive thoughts, and the like.  When we disengage from identifying with them, these thoughts can be viewed as simple arisings and passings – much like a breeze that touches the surface of our skin.  They are not us.  They are something that seems to happen to us.

Then, what is left is identification with the observer.  It has become clear that we are not the thoughts that we think and we don’t even generate them consciously.  I was able to get to this point when I realized that I was still identifying with the part of the mind that was watching the thoughts.  “I” was the watcher, the observer, the part that says, “there is a breeze on your arm”.  It took an insight experience for me to blow that identification apart.

Slowly as you practice you will break down identification with self.  It is this dissolution of deceptive reality that leads to liberation.  The road is set before you and all you have to do is practice to reach the final goal.

What’s left after unveiling


“Whatever we care to call the ultimate reality, we cannot define or qualify it because the brain is incapable of processing this kind of data.”

— Bernadette Roberts


The process of unveiling will eventually bring us in contact with ultimate reality – a reality we cannot define or talk about using words.  We can say:  we are not stupid and we are not smart, and we are not our body parts and we are not our thoughts, and we are not our emotions, nor our reactions, but we cannot actually say what we are.  Bernadette Roberts expresses this nicely in the above quote.

And who is Bernadette Roberts?

Bernadette Roberts is a self-made Buddha. She was a Catholic nun for 10 years following the Christian contemplative path. When she reached what the Catholics consider the closest you can get to God this side of the grave, she left the monastery with the intention of serving God in the world.  She went back to school, held regular employment, got married and had four children.

During the 20 years after leaving the nunnery, she reached full enlightenment without any formal teacher or guidance. She describes this process as the path to no-self. You can read the full story in her books.  She is refreshing in that she is a no nonsense person and expresses herself without any dogmatic bent.

The experience of no-self is the ultimate unveiling.  Identifying with negatives has gone, identifying with positives has gone and all that remains is the experience of being all that is.  How do we get to this experience?  I paraphrase Bernadette:

Since self cannot experience ultimate reality as it truly is, then the only way to do so is to be prepared to relinquish every last thing we know as self — everything we experience, in fact.

It appears that the key factor is willingness. It is the willingness to give up everything we experience.  Another word for this is renunciation.  Renunciation is disinterest in worldly things.  If we have renunciation, we would certainly be willing to give up everything we experience in the world.  We can say the same thing a different way:  with renunciation we are only interested in becoming enlightened or knowing God and think about that day and night.

How far do you want to go?  People talk about working towards enlightenment, but the true first step is becoming willing to give up everything.  Not many people are really interested in that.  They think enlightenment is keeping it all and getting more.


Next week I will be visiting the Bay Area and catching up with friends.  On Sunday, August third I’ll be speaking at the Harmony Center for the Joyful Spirit.  To go along with my talk I suggested the movie Kumare be played at their Friday night movie get together.  It is a documentary about a fellow from the East Coast that comes to Phoenix and pretends to be an Indian Guru.  Once he has collected together a group of followers and indoctrinates them in his spiritual path, he does an unveiling where he reveals his true identity.

movie kumareIt is an interesting and complex film.  Kumare’s message is that we all have the answers wtihin us and don’t need external teachers to tell us what to do.  This is my philosophy as well and “the answers are within” happens to be the title of one of  my books.  The talk I am giving is called Unveiling and will go more into the process of uncovering or revealing our true identities.  (Video of talk.)

We all have an identity. In fact we all have multiple identities or perhaps it would be better to say, we all have a multifaceted identity.  Our identity is made up of the stories we have about ourselves.  Many of us on the spiritual path of awakening have noticed how our identity has changed as we’ve progressed.

For me, I was largely unconscious of my identity in the beginning.  As I became more aware, I began to recognize certain facets of my identity and then I began to question them.

For instance, I called my self “insensitive” for many years in my teens and twenties.  Then I realized that I was actually overly sensitive and had built up a wide variety of strategies that protected me from overwhelm.  One of those protective mechanisms was insensitivity.  So one of my identities changed from “insensitive” to “very sensitive”.

These days the question is, “Am I very sensitive?”  And the answer is no.  If I can say, “I am ______”, then I am not that thing.  The truth is that I am not anything that I can say in words.  All labels and description are just constructs.  I am not a construct.  These things are my identity but they do not come close to expressing what I truly am.

I have found the process of unveiling is more like an elimination process.  I never can see or express who I truly am, but I get close to knowing who I truly am by finding out what I am not.

During the unveiling process, I may have first thought I was stupid or fat and then I realized I wasn’t stupid or fat.  I replaced that identity with the idea that I was smart or shapely.  Finally I realize that I’m not smart or shapely either.  If I was smart and shapely then who would I be if I get old and no longer can think and my body is falling apart.  So, I am not smart or shapely.

Similarly I have found that I am not anger or sadness, I am not my reaction to anything.  I am not my form.  If you remove my eyes, I still seem to exist. So I am not my body parts.  If my brain stops working (I’m in a coma.) people point to me and call my name.  I still exist – so I’m not my brain.

There are many paths to enlightenment and here is another tool:  See if you can find what you are?  The easiest way is to eliminate everything you are not.  Tell me what you end up with.