Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Unchanging Self

I often recall something my grandfather said to me when I was five years old. He was telling me that he “and the boys” had gone to a baseball game. I laughed. “You said ‘boys’! Why do you say ‘boys” when you’re as old as you are?” He was probably about 60. His response was, “You never get any older. Your body gets older, but you stay just the same as you always were. Inside, I’m no older now than I was when I was your age.”

As I see it, he was describing the eternal and never-aging spark of the Source (the spark of God, if you prefer) which gives consciousness to our physical form. What shall we call that spark? Atman? The soul? The higher Self?

Words are inadequate here, especially since the same words are used in different senses by various schools of thought, but the point is that there is a part of us, the most important part, which is independent of our physical form. It is the observer, sometimes called the “enjoyer”, the passenger in the chariot we sense as our body. It is what watches the show on the television screen created by our senses, but there is nothing watching the Watcher because there is nothing beyond the Observer.

That brings to mind the Zen statement that to go searching for God is like searching for an ox while riding on the ox.

I believe that this atman, this higher Self, not only remains forever young, but also never moves. You are always in the same place. No matter where your body moves about in the illusion, maya, you are always in the same place. The only location of the Source, atman, is Now, the eternal Present. That part of you, if you were suddenly to find yourself on the other side of the planet, would be exactly where it is now. That is an inexpressible concept, but I draw the very crude analogy of a virtual reality computer game which seems to real that the player of the game becomes lost in it and forgets that he is playing a game. He believes he is traveling all over the world in the game, but he actually remains in the same place.

The spark of the divine in the individual never sleeps, never gets drunk, never is hurt. I think that L. Ron Hubbard was correct when he wrote that something in us records everything that happens, even when we are unconscious. It is also this Something which looks down at the body on the hospital bed in near death experiences. It is what tells the New Year’s Eve reveler, who is too intoxicated even to stand up for long, to “pull himself together” and drive safely home, even though he may not remember how he got there. (I know, I know, “Don’t drink and drive”, but it’s a good example.) “It” is also what makes a person become calm and efficient in a fast-moving, life-threatening crisis in spite of all the previous fear. It is, I think, what directs and enables an ordinary person to summon superhuman strength to lift an automobile to save a life.

I also believe based on personal experience, that the higher Self helpfully watches out for us. Some people believe in guardian angels, some in protective spirit guides, and I don’t dispute their beliefs, but my feeling has been that something of my “Self” is helping me avoid accidents and other bad experiences with those inner messages to “Turn left here, and never mind why!”, or “Get out right now”.

Saving experiences like those are reported so widely by so many people that there’s no question that they are real. The only question is, “Where do they come from?” Whether they come from your Self or an angel or guide, you receive even more helpful messages if you recognize and truly accept in your moment-to-moment daily life that at least a part of you exists in a spiritual domain in which future events and distant events can be perceived . . . things which our physical eyes and ears cannot detect any more than they can detect radio waves or rays from outer space.

That higher component of ourselves which remains always young, always awake, and never exhausted can be realized in Now, no matter how distracted or worried or busy we are. Tolle’s excellent book, THE POWER OF NOW, describes “gateways to Now”. My personal way is to find something in the Present to focus on – the sound of a fountain, the light on a quivering leaf, the feel of a fabric, or to use the well-known method of paying attention entirely to one’s own breathing.

A sense of peace comes from remembering who you really are.


  1. For me, there is great sobriety of self to embrace the wonderful "pointing" of people throughout the ages. To do so and factoring in the reality of Jesus Christ as well is an amazing part of the journey for me.

    I find it interesting how He doesn't claim to be I AM, but just lives as I AM and then points to the reality of it with His words. Now, I factor back in these amazing pointing words from other people (you mention Zen). How incredibly expanding it is and, at the same time, saddening.

    I see the mental box constructed of self-made thoughts I lived in for most of my life. I see how I took the thoughts of others and adopted them as my own (patterned my own internal thought-prison after the likeness of others I met in church). I am thankful to see that reality now and in the awareness of it (being the Watcher) see the insidious mechanism at work and having some small hope of escape.

    There are so many places where I see where you're pointing towards reality: Saving experiences, Higher Self watching out for me and calmness in crisis. I feel like we're starting to look behind the curtain and veil of thought and imagination to finally see the vista of reality, single presence and eternity itself in a word-robbing experience where being is more important than understanding.

    Thank you for such connecting, revealing and expanding writing. Thank you for focus.

  2. Personally I don't distinguish between the deeper self and the angels. Whatever these things are, they don't have name tags on their underpants. I like the idea of angels. (Reminds me of joke about nun who had to report she was pregnant to the Mother Superior and was adamant that she had been ravished by the angel Michael. Under close questioning she said her basis for this belief was the label on her lover's underwear: "St. Michael" - which is the brandname of British clothing store Marks and Spencer.)