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Staying Focused on the Self

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Someone contacted me asking about the teachings of Ramana and also asking how I stay focused on the Self. Here is my response:

In my experience, the great power of Ramana's teaching is as you say in the focused simplicity of the message. Self-inquiry can point you all the way back to the source of Being in pure Presence. And yet I also at times find that to be its limitation. Formless awareness loves to play in form and all of the many levels of existence....it even loves forming egos!

Perhaps, a balanced perspective is that there is a place for discovering your true nature as empty awareness, and yet that is not the end of the inquiry but just another beginning. There are all of the endless possibilities inherent in Consciousness to be explored and enjoyed as well.

And so in answer to your question as to how I stay focused on the Self, I would say that as I discover more and more about the Self I keep finding in deeper ways that there is nothing else here. That makes it easy to stay focused on the Self as I can't miss. Every experience is worthy of inquiry and deeper understanding and love. It is like eating at a buffet instead of having to order something specific off of the menu.

Note to readers: Please feel free to email me with questions or topics you would like to see addressed on this blog using the form on the contact page.

Oneness in Everyday Experiences

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The following is an excerpt from one of the free articles available here entitled What is Advaita or Nonduality?

What about your experience right now? Is it possible to discover this subtle oneness in ordinary experience? It is, if you set aside the expectation of a dramatic experience of oneness and explore the oneness a little bit at a time. Just as even a single drop of water is wet, you can experience oneness in even simple everyday experiences, since oneness is a fundamental quality of everything that exists.

As an experiment, just notice your fingers and the palm of your hand. Can you really say where one starts and the other ends, or are they one thing? To take this further, where does your hand stop and your forearm begin? Can you experience the oneness of your hand and your forearm?

If these are not separate, then what about all the other parts of your body? Are your feet and your ears really one even though they are so different? Now notice if there really is a separation between your thoughts and your head. Where does your head stop and something else called thought begin? What about feelings or desires? Are they really separate from you or your body?

Now, notice the simple sensations you are having: the sounds you are hearing, the sensations of touch, and the objects and events you are seeing. If you are seeing, something, where does the seeing stop and something else called the eye begin? If you are hearing sounds where does the sound start and the ear stop? Perhaps the hearing and the sound and your ear are all one thing. Yes, the ear is different from the sound, but in the act of hearing they become one thing.

Then, where does the source of the sound stop and the sound itself start? For example, if a bird is singing outside your window, where does the bird stop and the sound of its song begin? Or are they one thing? If the bird and its song are one thing, and your hearing and the song are really one thing, then is it possible that you and the bird are one thing also?

Advaita, or oneness of Being, has often been thought of as something hidden or difficult to experience, when it is quite ordinary and available in every moment. Of course a big experience of oneness, where you directly experience the oneness of everything, is a rare and dramatic event. But why wait for something so rare when this sweet and satisfying oneness is right here, right now?

The Heart's Wisdom in Relationships

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Here is another response to a question someone sent me about listening to their heart to know what is true in their relationship. Specifically they wanted to know if when their heart contracts in response to the other person's words, is that a sign of how true the other person's words are or is it a sign of how true something is that is being triggered inside of them. Please note that this response refers to how the opening and closing of our heart shows us how true our experience is. For more about this form of heart centered wisdom, please see the free download of part 2 of my book, Living from the Heart which is available here.

One of the challenging things about our inner knowing is that it responds instantly to whatever is in awareness in a particular moment, and that’s always changing. So in interactions with others and in response to your own thoughts or insights, you are likely to experience a variety of expansions and contractions as words are spoken, thoughts and feelings arise, and conditioned reactions are triggered. For example, while someone is criticizing you, your Heart is likely to contract in response to the relative truth of their criticism. And if, in the next moment, you think, “They’re right. I’m a jerk,” your Heart might contract even more. In contrast, if you compassionately think, “Oh, he just lost his job, so he’s probably in a bad mood today,” this wider perspective might start your Heart opening. So the responses of your Being are as fast as thought, and we can have a lot of thoughts in a very short time. Your Heart is always responding to the words as they are spoken or the thought or reaction you are having in that instant.

When it comes to relationships, it can be hard to catch what is true and what isn’t, as there are often so many reactions in both people that are being expressed both verbally and nonverbally, and your Heart is responding to each one, even if only for an instant. That’s why I often say it matters more what the overall climate of a relationship is like than what the weather is like today. The question is, in the midst of triggering each other all day long, are there also moments of truly expanded love and joy? Which is predominant? The joy and love in just a moment of true Heart connection and celebration can be enough to counterbalance a lot of petty annoyances that may also be a part of being together.

If you are always contracting when someone does something, it might be your Heart’s accurate response to the truth of their actions. The question really is what happens in the next moment. Do you “get the joke” that it isn’t very true and just laugh it off and move on, or are you still thinking about it an hour later? If the latter, then you probably need to take a look at your own conditioning. But that doesn’t mean that if that person is repeatedly triggering you all day long there isn’t something in him or her that also needs to be seen for what it is. You are under no obligation to stay around someone who continually acts without integrity or awareness.

We can also use the Heart in making choices about practical matters, such as where to live or whether to stay in a job. What matters is the overall sense over time regarding a specific direction, not just how your Heart is responding in a particular moment. So when it comes to major decisions, it’s best to take some time sensing the overall climate of your being’s responses to the various options and to your reactions to the various options and any ramifications of each option that you can think of before deciding. At some point, there will be enough evidence in your Heart to know the relative merit of the various options. By the way, your Heart is still working fine if it registers no real difference between the options. That probably just means that whatever you choose in that situation doesn’t really matter!