Self-Inquiry is the same across the board. There are no special rules or procedures needed to observe and contemplate the nature of our ¨own¨ selves. The list of different exercises, meditations, and other methods is almost endless.
There are infinite paths and roads to take within Self-Inquiry; however, they all lead to the same destination. This exploration is a matter of compatibility. You must find which language, style, and approach ¨speaks¨ directly to your specific ¨wiring¨.
Still, the following are the two main Self-Inquiry exercises that summarize the essence of this journey. For this reason, it is advisable to examine both.
These specific exercises are not exclusively meditative or methodological; both these are heavily explorative and will need reasoning and deduction to reach a new understanding of the nature of who you are. The Inquiry of these exercises will attempt to facilitate the understanding of two concepts.
Before exploring both exercises, we will go in-depth by inquiring about their importance and how we can accomplish its full understanding.
IMPORTANT!– Although all we can ¨do¨ is reason and study intellectually via observation and experiment, we know that Self-Inquiring on our nature can bring a new understanding, that is the purpose for both these exercises; the rest happens on its own. If one can understand these two Self-Inquiries, there will no longer be a need to explore anything else. These exercises constitute the final intention of Self-Inquiry and Non-Dualism.
- First Inquiry: Free Will
- What Would It mean NOT Having Free Will?
- Why Do We Feel That Free-Will is Real?
- Will I Become An Evil Person When I Realize Free-Will Is An Illusion?
- What Changes Can I Expect From This No-Free-Will Understanding?
- An Observation of The Definition of Free Will
- A Simple Test of Free Will
- Are our feelings, sensations, and perceptions who WE are?
- Taking a ¨common sense approach¨ towards Free Will.
- An Observation On Conditioning And Actions
- Neuroscientist Sam Harris inquiring about Free Will.
- Second Self-Inquiry: The Nature of Who You Are
First Inquiry: Free Will
What Would It mean NOT Having Free Will?
This realization points out to a field of full potential and ever-presence; it is a powerful understanding that helps you discover that who you think you are, is false and that this sense of control and decision making is an unnecessary illusion.
Having no Free-Will does NOT mean that you neglect your responsibilities in life.
You still ¨do¨ what is necessary, you prepare and plan for events, you do this and that, nothing in that context changes.
You might find yourself surprised by realizing the weight lifted from the sense of tension from having thought for decades that you needed to control, decide, and keep everything in order and together.
By all means, keep doing what you must. Learn, get ready, schedule this and that, work, etc. But let LIFE flow; it doesn’t need or care for your coaching and supervising. It flows already anyway, so why create friction and tension within your experience?
Why Do We Feel That Free-Will is Real?
Watch the grass, flowers, and trees in nature, how they grow, recycle, clean, and heal without the need for intervention or harvesting from humans.
The same way you came into this world, nine months inside your mother’s womb. Everything you needed for your body’s growth and development was and is provided to this day.
Nature’s intelligence, biology, and DNA took care of forming your nails, bones, organs, brain, etc. Coding your height, hair color and texture, skin complexity, brain capability, and synapsis, and many millions of functions that are still, to this very moment, continue to take care of.
At some point during your development and acquiring a sense of personhood and individuality, your Ego said:
¨Ok, this is me; I have a name, I feel a sense of power, I’ll take it from here¨. This is where a movement of arrogance is born, triggering the illusion of Ego and Free Will.
Letting go of the illusion of Free Will does not mean that language will change either, the same way we use the word ¨Sunset¨ while knowing the Sun does not set; rather it is us who turn and spin around it, we can still use language and express the words ¨I did this¨, ¨I will do that¨, ¨I decide¨, etc. without losing our minds. We act as if, although we know better.
Will I Become An Evil Person When I Realize Free-Will Is An Illusion?
No, it does not mean that one becomes careless and indifferent or that you’ll be robbed of your sense of morality, meaning, or purpose. We do not oversee our understanding of kindness, empathy, love, and compassion; if anything, it enhances these elements in our experience.
Understanding this does not mean that you can go and do whatever your ¨ego¨ pleases. You will not get a ¨Get out of jail card¨ and use it as an excuse for selfishness. If a person misunderstands this message or tries to use it as a copout for bad behavior, breaking laws, or harming others, SOCIETY would still make this person PAY for its actions.
People who are ¨wired¨ that way are rarely if not entirely uninterested in these subjects of Self-Inquiry. If they’re unkind by nature, that is their wiring.
On the other hand, the fact that a person worries about this particular predicament is proof that that person is not unkind, that there IS Consciousness, empathy, love, and caring present.
If you are a conscious person with a good set of values, moral by nature, and capable of feeling compassion, then it would be IMPOSSIBLE for you to harm anyone regardless of this exploration or any other inquiries. Your genes, your DNA would prevent you from harming others.
Even more so, by understanding who you are, it would be more challenging to act in harmful ways because your ego (which is Free Will) would disappear, thus erasing your sense of separation.
Once the sense of separation vanishes, there would be no ¨others¨, only yourself standing in front of you, all the time, every time. How and why would you harm your ¨own¨ self?
What Changes Can I Expect From This No-Free-Will Understanding?
When we begin to dig into this subject, we might notice an uneasy or uncomfortable feeling, a resistance towards the possibility of having NO Free will and losing control. That is NOT you; that one is not who you are. This ¨mechanism¨ is a simple tool used to explore life. But you, your ¨SELF¨ are much more than that.
When this shift of understanding happens, life will not necessarily change per se. Life might probably become more harmonious, but this is not important.
Life will continue to flow, challenges and adversity will keep presenting from day to day; however, you will never feel uncomfortable with yourself or ¨others¨. The result will be Peace of Mind.
Your body-mind mechanism might feel uncomfortable or incompatible with some situations or the actions of ¨others¨. Still, you will no longer feel personal discomfort in any direction.
¨You¨ will act accordingly in any situation, kind, caring or loving when compatible, assertive, resistant and defying when needed, voicing your opinion when wise, fighting while necessary, defending freedom or justice, but above all, all of these without fear, tension, anxiety, resentment, or hate.
An Observation of The Definition of Free Will
To begin this exploration, we must agree on what ¨Free will¨ means.
Free will is generally defined as:
¨The ability to choose between different possible courses of action.¨
Ok, that sounds fair enough; now let us take explore this definition step by step.
This definition assumes that there is an existing ¨agent¨ who has an ¨ability¨ to choose something.
Let us stop there and inquire who this existing ¨agent¨ is, BEFORE giving it the ability to choose anything.
In the context we are exploring, this ¨agent¨ refers to a person. The definition of the word ¨Person¨ is a human regarded as an individual. Again, notice we are now defining a Human as an individual based on perceptual convenience.
An object is an object regardless of it being inanimate or not; assuming and calling it an individual is functionally smart but inaccurate.
Assigning individualism to an animated object is a practical definition useful in life. It helps with interaction within a social structure, but it is also a lazy and arrogant assumption.
The word individual comes from the Latin ¨in-dividuus¨, which means ¨not-devisable¨. However, this definition is conceptually and objectively wrong.
Science states that unless referring to anything below quarks (which are the smallest particles, thus unable to measure), everything that exists in space and time, every object, matter, and atom is divisible.
This statement is a fact, not a theory.
If we look at these two facts:
- Atoms are divisible
- The human body is a biological machine, an intelligent functional three-dimensional object made of Atoms
What can we conclude from this?
The Human Body is a DIVISIBLE mechanism. The claimed individuality given to it is merely a conventional linguistic assumption.
Still, in truth, when we see ¨another¨ person, in essence, they are NOT separated, distant, or different from us; it’s all a needed illusion for human emotional and intellectual interaction, growth, exploration, and evolution.
Although this sense of separation has beauty and wonder, it is also the root of fear. When we feel separated from others and the world, it creates an experience of ¨me vs. the world out there¨, we confuse our sense of who we are, and we ¨disconnect¨ and turn off our empathy and care from others.
When this happens, the cultural division is enhanced, borders created, aggression towards one another begins; when we think ¨YOU are separate from me¨, cruelty, war, racism, and harm to one another becomes the Modus Quo.
A Simple Test of Free Will
THE CLEARING OF THE MIND EXERCISE
Step# 1.- Sit comfortably in a place where you cant be interrupted for a couple of minutes.
Step# 2.- Close your eyes and try to clear your mind from thoughts.
Step# 3.- NOTICE!. Right away, you’ll realize that this is almost an impossible task. It is as if you have a constant narrator inside your head, just spitting out random opinions and expressing unrequested ideas about everything.
Even worse, it has no monitor or filter at all; you have no other option than to deal with it and listen to this voice all day long, from the moment you wake up to the last second you fall asleep.
The definition of Free Will is The ability to choose between different possible courses of action. In this case, there are two courses of action to choose from:
- To think
- To stop thinking
If you had Free Will, you would be able to do this. But be honest, YOU CAN’T.
The reason for this is that the action of “thinking” is a function and NOT a private or personal entity. It’s what the brain does!
Furthermore, this action of “thinking” covers your entire experience, the realm of ideas you carry, your personality, and your interaction with the world. YOU have NO CONTROL over any of them. It´s all phenomenon.
No individual agent is choosing or rolling a dice inside your head coming up with thoughts, and even if there were a little “individual¨ there, IT would also be “conditioned” by its pre-ordained and constructed arranged mechanism. Wich means that IT would also be a product of its previous conditioning.
Are our feelings, sensations, and perceptions who WE are?
A Human Being’s Body carries specific qualities, tools, and abilities that enable the experience of perceiving a world ¨separate from itself¨. However, this does not mean that this Human Body is independent of what it sees.
Rupert Sipra has a beautiful quote about this:
¨Your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions are unique, or individual, but what you essentially are doesn’t share the limits of your thoughts and feelings¨Rupert Spira
This phrase is suggesting something more profound than the facts and science we’re exploring; it’s going prior and beyond the exploration of the material realm, implying that what ¨connects us¨ is not an object, concept, or form, but rather the Consciousness where all this activity is emerging from.
This two-minute clip from Rupert Spira explores the sense of individuality within our experience.
This Consciousness is who you are and who other things and ¨others¨ are, you are them, they are you, they are your own ¨Self¨, only one substance, not two.
When we see another person, what in reality is happening is that our tools are functioning accurately by processing all our environment and ¨space out there¨, converting energy and vibration to images and objects that we can interact with, understand, see, touch, etc. Allowing us to experience, explore, learn, create, and evolve as humans.
If you´re scientifically inclined, you might enjoy watching this TED talk presentation from neuroscientist Anil Seth:
The following statement is from TED talks:
¨Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience — and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we’re all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it “reality.” Join Seth for a delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence.¨Ted.com
Everything we see ¨out there¨ as the world is known as ¨Abstract Entities¨ or ¨Abstract Quantities¨.
Science describes our reality as a Brain constructed hallucination. Our brain then takes this ¨Abstract Quantities¨ (think of them as vibrating energy) and translates them to images and objects which we can understand and experience.
This means that, by definition, every time we see another human being, we also see ¨Abstract Quantities¨. This simple observation suggests that you, as a human being, are AS WELL part of this realm of ¨Abstract Quantities¨.
Here’s a clip from Computer scientist Bernard Kastrup explaining the relation between Brian perception, reality, and Consciousness:
For more on Bernardo Kastrup, you can click here or directly at https://www.bernardokastrup.com/.
Whatever you see and from where you are seeing is ALL ¨Abstract Quantities¨, so, how separate are we from the world ¨out there¨?
The action that we, as a society, do, of labeling the word ¨Person¨ to a human and defining it as a separate individual, is a HUGE arrogant leap of assumption without any proof of separation.
There are NO INDIVIDUALS. It is all an illusion of separation.
So, if we again look at the definition for Free Will:
¨The ability to choose between different possible courses of action. ¨
There are no individual agents to whom attribute an ¨ability¨ to choose anything. Thus the concept of ¨Free Will¨ becomes invalid and nonexistent.
Taking a ¨common sense approach¨ towards Free Will.
There is a more straightforward way to observe the nature of Free Will. It is a simple fact that everything, every person, every object is bound to time and space.
Nobody can negate or deny this; it is our main rule of experience, all ¨things¨ of the word, including us, change, decay, and gradually but surely, turn into dust.
There are action and reaction forces; one thing leads to the other. Every person is a product of previous conditioning by DNA and external environment that, in combination, are influencing and molding our personalities, reactions, fears, likes, preferences, education, sensitivity, emotions, etc.
You are NOT responsible for liking chocolate over vanilla. Your taste buds were part of your DNA code; you didn’t choose to like one over the other; these are just the ¨cards¨ handed to you; the same goes for your height, the color of hair and skin, susceptibility, resistance to heat, or cold, etc.
Your level of intelligence, inclinations, and emotions are also part of your Biology.
Albert Einstein was born with a scientifically gifted brain, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a prodigious musical ability, Vincent Vangoh as a masterful oil painter. If we dare to exchange professions and demand them the same results, we will undoubtedly fail. Each of these brains (body-minds) came equipped with exceptional abilities and inclinations for their art.
Your emotions, anger, compassion, love, stress, etc., are as well part of your biology; these reactions come from your ability to perceive and react to circumstances.
Your preferences are all coming from your body’s conditioning and your brain’s capabilities to process and store information, qualifying all this data as good, bad, acceptable, not acceptable, or irrelevant, thus molding your personality.
External experiences that we do not control either will also mold and impact a person’s ¨wiring¨.
An Observation On Conditioning And Actions
The Dog At The Park
Picture yourself being a kid playing in a park, suddenly a dog charges from nowhere, chasing you and biting your leg.
It’s a severe bite; you end up at the hospital. It takes you several months to heal. You end up with tissue tear and ligament damage.
You grow up with sudden pains during cold weather and tension that lead to walking with discomfort and limping from time to time.
As an adult, you’re walking with your friends on the streets; you hear a dog barking, shivers down your spine, and tension arises; you immediately turn and scan your surroundings; you don’t see anything; you nervously keep walking.
None of this is your fault; this is a LOGICAL reaction from a healthy functional body-mind that has gone through specific experiences. It is a survival and protective mechanism.
Think about it as a chain reaction. One thing leads to the other. Let us use this video below as a metaphor for this.
Picture the first ping pong ball on this clip as the initiator of experience; call it big bang, Consciousness in movement, creation, intention, whatever you find more comfortable.
Also, see the rest of the balls and traps as a specific mechanism of action, each one carrying a potential for interaction.
Notice that regardless of all the following activity created, ALL activity is a result of previous actions, which at its origin, the enabler was the drop of the first ball. Without this ¨movement¨, none of the interactions would have been possible.
The same event is happening in our experience as Human Beings. We are a result of previous complex activity.
Neuroscientist Sam Harris inquiring about Free Will.
Even if you are scientifically inclined, then you must admit that the proposition of Determinism is more scientific compatible than freewill. The first being a straightforward, understandable explanation, while the second is a ¨magical¨ wishful phenomenona based on faith attached with fear of letting go of the egoistic feeling of power and control.
Second Self-Inquiry: The Nature of Who You Are
This second Inquiry will be an exploration of our own identity. We ¨do¨ everything in the name of ¨someone¨, this vague sense of ourselves acting and having control. But WHO is ¨this one¨ we talk about? We fail to reveal who this ¨someone¨ is. We can refer to this second exploration as the Inquiry of the nature of the ¨Self¨.
Although this ¨Self¨ we talk about can sound like something strange, unattainable, or mysterious, it is not. The nature of ¨who you are¨ is the CLEAREST and most obvious aspect of existence.
The reason we do not notice it is because we are distracted by the images on the screen, thus overlooking the only thing that is right there in front of us, THE SCREEN. The screen is the only thing that is real; the rest are amusing stories made of dead matter, although they can provoke emotions, sensations, and perceptions; at the end of the day, they are dead matter, a graveyard of memories and imaginary projections.
We tend to be so seduced and hypnotized by the movie we are watching that we completely forget about the only thing that is allowing the film to play. This screen is powerful, full of potential, unharmable, unchangeable. It can project infinite movies, any image, any ¨thing¨.
It can project fire without getting burnt, water without getting wet, birth, and death without dying or being born. And all it takes to realize the existence of it is just noticing, its right THERE in front, its right here, it is ¨YOU¨, you are this ¨screen¨, this KNOWING of life experience, without you, nothing can be experienced.
You are THATH from which everything emerges from. You are the knowledge that allows ¨experience¨ to be known. Ever present.
The Hearing Experiment.
Take the example of your ability to hear. Your ears are preceptors of sound. Your hearing has the power to process and perceive sound.
1.- Find a room where you can sit uninterrupted and take your phone with you. Sit quietly and relax your body.
2.- Grab your phone and look for audio with random simple sounds; it does not have to be a song. It is actually easier for the exercise if it’s not a song (let’s avoid the urge to start singing or dancing alone in the room). You can use this clip below if you like.
3.- Play the audio for about 40 seconds and then press pause and remain without sound for another 40 seconds. Repeat this exercise a couple of times. (the video above already has ¨breaks¨ of 40 seconds, so you can play and leave it alone without the need of pausing manually)
4.- Notice that the absence of noise while pausing the audio does NOT affect your ability to hear. Hearing and its power to perceive sound have NOT disappeared or ended. There is simply NOTHING to be heard. Hearing is always full of its potential ready to perceive sound, regardless of sound arising or not.
5.- Now, with this understanding, go and repeat step #3 once again. Then come back and proceed to step below.
6.- Realize that this peaceful and sweet silence during the absence of sound is also PRESENT in the background while a sound is present. The silent, powerful, loving, and compelling potential of ¨Hearing¨ is always present.
The same is with your ¨Self¨. Who you ¨ARE¨ is always present. You are this Consciousness, the awareness, the knower of experience.
While you are awake during the day, you are AWARE of many experiences, starting your day, getting up from bed, the sensation of feeling tired or energetic, hunger, pain or pleasure, thoughts coming and going, people interactions, etc.
When the day comes to an end, you are AWARE of the experience of going to bed; then, while sleeping, you are AWARE of the experience of dreaming.
During Deep Sleep (without mental dreams), you are still AWARE. Awareness has not ended or disappeared; there is simply NOTHING to be aware of!
The same way as with the ¨hearing¨ exercise we did above, the ability to hear does not diminish; AWARENESS is alive full of potential. THIS is who you are.
YOU ARE ALWAYS PRESENT, HERE AND NOW.
Let us say that we have begun to understand all this. The intellect, even though it will gradually become quieter, it might still be left with a few inquiries. The following is usually the most common question.
So, I can see the absence of Free Will and the illusion of the sense of personhood. Ok, now what? How to live life then?
This question comes from the imagined false ¨individual¨. It is the imaginary self-fearing entity horrified of the idea of its own death, annihilation. But he, she or ¨it¨ cannot die, because it never was born, it is not real, YOU are real, this AWARENESS, you are this ¨space¨ where this false image comes and goes, continually trying to claim ownership of the screen where is projected.
So, the answer to that question is simple:
Nothing. There is nothing ¨YOU¨ must or can do other than finally wake up, relax, and enjoy! Now you are awake from this trance. Peace of Mind is the ever-present current in this experience, a fearless way of living.
This video from Rupert Spira summarizes the message intended in this article.
Free Will vs. Action and Responsibility
For more on Rupert Spira, you can click here or directly at his YouTube Chanel https://www.youtube.com/user/rupertspira.
When life brings situations and interactions, ¨YOU¨ act AS IF you had free will and ¨do¨ what you humanly FEEL is best, leaving the rest alone. You will notice everything surrounding you will become more harmonious, ¨YOU¨ will slowly but inevitably become more peaceful; empathy, compassion, and love will be normal states of being.
You will still express strength, resistance, or fight towards injustice and unreasonable behavior, but without resentment, without personal loss or gain, you will let life flow. You will become aware of how Consciousness plays its song and understand a more profound meaning beyond right and wrong, realizing you ARE this Consciousness; THIS is peace and freedom itself.
Try these 5 Minute Meditation Exercises inspired by methods & teaching from Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharshi, Adyashanti, Ram Dass, Neem Karoli Baba, and many other truthful and honest teachers.