I found myself cringing while re-reading my response to the question “Who are you?” from an instagram post I made the other day:
Who Are You?:
I am an amalgamation of all the data I have taken in, including programming and software updates that allow me to rewrite code and delete useless information.
I like matter I perceive as beautiful and believe I honor and respect those I come in contact with.
Not because I disagree with it necessarily but rather the answer I gave might give the impression that “I” am a hyper-rational atheist, which feels quite far from the truth “I” feel. I interpreted the question “Who are you” as asking about my thinking “I” but I would like to pose a scenario where there are multiple “I’s.” At least two “I’s” are often talked about in spiritual literature from different traditions, this might be seen as the self differentiated from “God” and the one in union with God/dess. Anyone who has felt themselves swept up in romantic relationship may recognize a diffusion of “I” where (at least) in a social context, individuals may often be referred to and seen as a pair.
While far less romantic a term, I used “data” the other day to include interpersonal relationships, books, art and even the diet that forms our microbiome and has as much affect on our mood as does the weather and every other bit of significant and insignificant “data” that makes up all of our conscious mind. Similar to how the “big bang” (the appearance of something from nothing) is “the” miracle from which we explain everything in existence, there is a piece of the conscious mind who’s data seems to be non-local. Current human society has gone from technology accessing hard-wired data, to the cloud. The metaphors that are available to us in our current technological age are the most complex that we have been offered throughout history, and it is always good to remember that “the map isn’t the territory” and a metaphor helps to look at the thing it describes, not explain it.
Non-local data “is” data that isn’t stored on the “machine” with which it is being accessed. If you have meditated (long enough and with technique) or done a high dose of psychedelics (in the appropriate set and setting) you may have glimpsed the “I” that exists beyond the “thinking I”.
We culturally refer to the aforementioned events as “Ego Death”. Though in these experiences the thing we call Ego isn’t dead in terms of finality. It is possible, ideas of reincarnation have their roots in this visionary experience. To use my previous metaphor, the machine (generally) reboots and again resumes believing the data that makes up the thinking mind is “itself”. At one of it’s lower values the thinking mind may interpret the occurrence as a “trippy experience”. At the higher ideals we begin to recognize a very powerful bit of consciousness that exists beyond the thinking mind, my favorite term for this bit of “data” is the “observer”.
“I” (the thinking I, the one writing this post) might distinguish the “i” that is a son, from the “i” that is a friend, brother, lover, student, teacher or any other smaller “i” identity that attaches my conscious mind to data that is local, (stored in my brain). The brain can be seen as a machine accessing (and also interpreting) data, and we utilize tools to access and interpret that data that were created by tools of science and further on down the path of atomization (the investigation of the individual/separate parts interacting with one another).
Existence creates division that besets one and two by creating a distinction: If “I” am to be “this” therefore “I” ultimately can not be “that”.
The main distinction I feel, hesitantly confidant in making, is between where the observing “I” and the thinking “I” have their attention focused. The thinking “I” is limited by the bounds of space and time and thus concerned with temporal existence. The thinking “I” is thus primarily involved in the work of assisting and progressing other Individuals that make up “c’s” in the forms of couplings, communities and cultures. While the observing “I” is instead focused inwardly. A place degrees more Infinite than the space that is outward. This does not imply a value judgement and I ask you reader, to keep in mind: just because one looks in a direction doesn’t mean the gaze will not periodically relax to take in the information on the periphery of the focus.
I suppose this is the burden of our schizophrenic species, existing in two places at once we must learn to look in opposing directions to awaken into the simultaneous being of existence and non-existence, connection and separation that is called enlightenment, Buddha nature, Christ consciousness or another metaphor for something that is foolish to attempt to explain in the atomizing tool that are words. Yoga (Most easily defined as union) practices are multifaceted tools for looking, but while science’s gaze is primarily focused upon examination of the external and atomizing, Yoga tends to look internally and approach problems holistically. I believe we are in a world madly seeking balance, not a war that ends with who is correct the materialist or the spiritualist but rather one that will assuredly lead to mutual annihilation unless we foster an ability to see where our goals and visions line up even if our stories differ.
With the move toward “mindfulness” and other such “buzz words” as Yoga has become, in this post I would like to advocate for a minimum of two practices, the contemplative and the meditative, to appease the division of self created perhaps by the “eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, or perhaps by the rational mind’s need to work on solving the puzzles of existence. Or perhaps Capitalism or Communism, Left and Right and every other simplistic dualistic way of mapping existence for easier consumption.
The contemplative and the meditative. The thoughtfully directed and the vast ocean of awareness. One practice that persistently judges and another that openly perceives. A healthy society built around growth and progress tends to value one, while a stable culture designed around spiritual foundations will gravitate toward the other. Even in our divisions of philosophies:
Atomism (all things are made up of independent parts) and Holism/Wholism (all things are parts of a whole) we begin a war using two different maps for the territory of “everything”. Atomism and Holism are merely the two directions we must look: inwardly and outwardly, recognizing the finite nature of existence and the infinite nature of consciousness. If I am my intellect and my ability to reason I will assuredly be disappointed when that goes away but if I am awareness, my loss of the ability to name a thing in the language of my parents is no loss of self but rather the acquiring of a new dialect that makes the old ways of communication incapable of speaking truth.