The essence of this practice is to build the realisation that you are already whole and that you are part of the Oneness. The life with which you have become identified is like a dream world or virtual reality. By practising non-identification you allow your true Self to be revealed.

Imagine that there exists a mighty, expansive ocean which is aware and sentient. Now imagine that some of the water from that ocean is taken and placed in a bucket. The bucket is now taken far away from the ocean. Because the ocean is sentient and aware, the water in the bucket is also sentient and aware. In the beginning it knows itself to be the ocean. Once it has been moved into the bucket it still knows it is part of the mighty ocean. Once it has been moved far away from the ocean it begins to forget that it was once the ocean and begins to believe that it is a separate body of water. Later still, as other buckets are filled and each body of water forgets its origins, they start to believe that they are the buckets themselves. The buckets look at each other and believe each bucket to be a separate individual.

Now let us consider human existence in a similar way. We all come from the expansive ocean of consciousness we call the Oneness. A part of that Oneness enters a physical body and that body is born. As we look out through the eyes of our new body and as we use our senses to feel the environment around us, we learn that this world is inhabited by people who believe themselves to be separate individuals. Although we have already travelled far from our Source, at birth we may still retain a memory that we are the ocean, but that memory gradually fades and we too start to believe that we are a separate entity in a world of division. Identification with the body and the mind has begun.

How identification with the body-mind is reinforced

When we are born we do not possess the skills to communicate with others (or perhaps they do not possess the skills to communicate with us) and so we have to learn their way of doing things in order to ensure that our basic needs are met. One of the first things we learn is that we have a name and a body. In order to differentiate between us and them, the people around us point to their bodies and ours whilst simultaneously voicing the label for each body. So our mother might point to her body and say “Mummy”, then point to our body and say our name. In this way our identification with our body is reinforced.

Once identification with the body-mind has taken root, we will essentially be out of alignment, or, put another way, who we believe ourselves to be will be out of alignment with who we really are. Or who we are in expression will be out of alignment with who we are in essence. Our whole lives will always be out of kilter until we are able to remember that we are part of the ocean and once knew that we were the ocean itself.

Concepts are loaded

Once the basic program of “you are your body-mind” has been loaded, additional programs or concepts can be installed.  Some of these concepts or programs include:

  • Everything you need must be found outside of yourself
  • You will need other people to fulfil those needs
  • You will have to battle with other people to get what you need

These programs become installed because they are programs which are running in the minds of those around us. The vast majority of people you meet have no idea that they were once the ocean or that they are part of the Oneness. Just being in the company of these people is going to be enough for new, limiting, concepts to take root.

The only thing you really want is to feel that connection with the Oneness, but even this you have forgotten, so you engage in power struggles with others, knowing that you are trying to get something but no longer knowing what.

As these struggles get acted out you begin to form beliefs about the world, about others and about “yourself” (your body-mind). These beliefs give rise to emotions and once this has happened you spend the rest of your life trying to avoid unpleasant emotions and gravitate towards pleasant ones. You try to avoid pain and move towards pleasure.

This process continues until you realise you are not the body-mind but the Oneness. You are not the bucket but the ocean.

At various times in your life you will sense that something is not right or that something is missing. If you once knew you were the ocean and then you were led to believe that you were nothing more than a bucket, would you not feel a sense of loss or that something fundamental was missing from your life?

Unfortunately all the concepts or programs which are loaded into our minds create such incredible amounts of ignorance and confusion that finding our way back to the Source and remembering who we really are becomes a challenge of epic proportions.

Someone may come along and tell you that you are not a separate individual, that you are the Oneness, and that “other people” don’t really exist. They may explain that when you look through the eyes of your body, what you see is not other people but other manifestations of your own true Self. You may feel a sense of recognition if someone tells you this and you may think that it would be wonderful to see life in this way, but those thoughts and feelings would most likely subside very quickly. Doubt would set in and you would remember everything you have learned (all the programs you have been subjected to). You may even be told that the true source of everything you need is not outside of yourself, but within you. Again you may feel that this could be true, but as soon as you remember what you were taught, as soon as you look around outside of you, and as soon as you start to talk with other people about this you will soon revert back to your old programming.

If you are going to break free from the prison of falsehood that is your mind, you will need to generate a very strong desire for liberation. Unfortunately, for most people, such desire only grows from repeated suffering. It is only by living one experience of suffering after another that we are able to generate enough drive and momentum to help us climb the ladder out of darkness and into the light.

Stuck in a virtual world

Another way of looking at our predicament is to imagine that, when the body is born, we enter into a kind of virtual reality game. In the beginning we may know that it is just a game and that it is not real, but if we play the game for too long we can become identified with the character we are playing and forget altogether that we are in a virtual world. Someone may enter the game and tell us that the world we have become accustomed to is not real and that we could stop playing but we would most likely not believe him. We may believe that to stop playing would mean dying.

Another metaphor which is widely used is that of a dream. When we dream we take the dream to be real. Unaware that we are dreaming we experience the full force of any emotions which present themselves.

How can we wake up?

And so the question is asked: how can I awake from this dream? The answer is to weed out negative tendencies and practise cultivating positive qualities, especially that of non-identification. By practising non-identification we build within us the realisation that we are not the body-mind. The more we do this the more we create space for our true Self to reveal itself.

Action-achievement orientation

Because we are taught that everything we need exists outside of us and that we will need to fight to get it, we learn strategies for trying to control outcomes and we learn to orient our behaviour around action and achievement. We believe that in order to get what we need, we must do something and achieve something. This “action-achievement orientation” becomes so ingrained that we carry this behaviour with us when at last we tire of the world of illusions and begin our spiritual quest to remember who we really are. So our early travels along the spiritual path are littered with attempts at action-achievement. It can come as a great shock to realise that spiritual liberation is not something that can be achieved and certainly not by doing.

Knowledge-acquisition orientation

Having realised that action-achievement orientation will not lead us to spiritual liberation, we may start to believe that knowledge-acquisition is the path to take, but knowledge-acquisition orientation can be just as much of a trap. Spiritual knowledge can be tremendously helpful for our spiritual learning but we must be mindful that filling our minds with new concepts will not, in itself, bring greater freedom. The value of consciously learning new concepts is to help to free us from the illusions created by old concepts which we acquired unconsciously, but the ultimate aim must be to go beyond concepts altogether – concepts belong to the mind and acquiring new concepts can lead to even stronger identification with the mind.

True spiritual liberation involves a purification of the mind so that direct perception can take place. By “direct perception” I mean seeing life as it is, untainted by the filters of concepts.

Make well-being, not doing, the centre of your life’s journey

Both action-achievement and knowledge-acquisition form part of the grand illusion that we are separate individuals – both can signify the need for approval from others as well as the perceived need to protect ourselves from the world by boosting our own self-esteem. The path of the light within is to relinquish the control of action-achievement and knowledge-acquisition in favour of allowing positive action and insight to arise, quite naturally, as a result of choosing well-being.

Instead of hoping that action-achievement or knowledge-acquisition will make us feel good, we can choose to feel good and, from that state of feeling good, we allow true spiritual wisdom to emerge as well as actions which are founded upon that wisdom.

One of the best starting points for feeling good is appreciation – recognising what is already good about life, allowing ourselves to feel love for what is good and allowing ourselves to feel intimately connected to what is good can help us to create a good-feeling state in which we no longer feel the need to achieve or to acquire.

Next Chapter: Non-Attachment >>

*** This chapter is taken from my book The Light Within ***