Soul in action

IMG_331074902130976What is a soul? Here, we named soul the ultimate subject within us, beyond thoughts. Is not mind nor body, some people have the intuition of their existence, other people have gotten some direct contact, means their mind have perceived the soul, impressing in the mind a sense of stable identity beyond the world, and a wonderful peace impossible of forget.

Contact with the soul, meaning perceive it with the mind at some degree, transforms our point of view about everything. At a starting level one, If you do it only for a few minutes a day, while your daily meditation, the soft and sweet impression received lasts almost all the day, subtle, but real. If you often put your attention in such subtle and sweet sensation, searching it, it slowly expands in you, in your mind, and you’re in a second level of contact. As a result, peace of mind comes to you, starting to love silence, to love calm, and to be contemplative. You often looks for daily moments of solitude, of silence, and rest in contemplation of yourself and the world, as a whole.

With time, the initial duality between “you”  as a thinker, and you as a soul, leans slowly towards the soul, towards a deep sense of identity, and you become progressively more and more independent of the external world, in the sense of be calm, peaceful and happy in every situation. You don’t need nothing, or only need basic things. You don’t desire nothing, no more artificial needs. You are starting to live a spiritual life without effort, without follow any religion or tradition, naturally. We can named it the third level of contact with your soul.

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I think only few people go beyond the third level. What are there? Our mind perceive clearly the qualities of the soul: perfect loving-kindness, permanent and indestructible stability, a sense of higher awareness and an unlimited inner energy. The soul has such qualities in their highest degree, such high that our mind is not able to accept that we are that. We perceive it but can’t accept we are that, our mind says to us “is impossible I am that, I know I’m very very limited, while the qualities I’m perceiving seems unlimited!” And is right: the mind is very limited, the soul not, and while we remain identified with our mind, we also will be  very limited. A patient work of relax our ideas about ourselves is needed, patient and slow, because the progress must be slow, because there are a danger in the way: to believe we are unlimited, resulting an inflated ego. The key word is believe, a mental position. The real progress drive us to directly live more  and more the qualities of the soul, and here the key word is live: direct experience, no believe, imaginations. In this advanced fourth level we learn to express such unlimited qualities in the world through our mind and body, that acts as instruments of action for the soul. I can’t explain exactly the experience of be the soul (even in some very imperfect degree) acting on the world, because is beyond the words. Is Yoga, meaning “union with the higher self”. Is self-realization, because the soul is our higher self.

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Realization of the subtle, deep subject

There are a strong influence of Buddhist thought in the West, especially about Mindfulness, but there is also some acceptance of non-dualist currents based on Vedanta. Both Buddhism and Vedanta dilute the concept of individual, considering that ultimately there is only a luminous mind without content, a vacuum full of potentiality, or there is only consciousness, respectively. These are the two predominant Oriental tendencies in spiritual, non-religious thought, which is now more heavily weighted in the West. This is probably due to the intellectual rejection that has occurred with respect to traditional religions as an effect, since in this vision, ultimately, there is no personal subject, therefore there can be no God, no soul at all.

Yet, knowing that it is swimming against the current, I must defend here the real existence of a personal subject, more subtle than the psychological personality. And I’m doing it not following beliefs, but for personal experiences, supported by readings of diverse texts, many of them also oriental, in the line of Yoga.

I think evolution tends precisely to engender subjects, or individualities, more and more subtle. Thus, since the original explosion of the “Big Bang” that created the Universe, it went from a kind of “cosmic soup” of undifferentiated radiation, where time and space did not yet have a meaning, to the current complicated aspect, with galaxies , Stars, solar systems and planets, all defined physical entities, individual. After life was created from inanimate matter, undifferentiated, we have another step towards a more defined individuality: each living being is. Later in the history of evolution consciousness appears, when the living being acquires a nervous system sufficiently evolved for it. Consciousness allows the living being to be a subject that observes the exterior, separates it from the environment on a more subtle level, not only has a differentiated physical form, but also has a very simple cognition that separates it more subtly from the environment.

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Evolution of life. From Wikipedia.

But that being does not yet “know” that he is somebody. As the nervous system evolves, the individual mind appears, with an enormous power of separation: the living being catalogs all that observes, sees everything as separate objects: a tree, a cloud, another animal, a prey, and so on. Finally, he comes to perceive himself as separate, with an existence of his own.

In the human species, the evolution of the individual subject continues, generating an increasingly subtle individuality: the individual thinks to himself, becomes a concept, a psychological self, a personality that inhabits a body. By practicing meditation, the subject learns to separate the observer from his thoughts, moving another step in the evolution of more and more subtle individuality: what or who is that “observer” beyond thoughts, and emotions? And when we arrive here is when we find the denial of the individual who defend Buddhism and Vedanta non-duality. The whole course of evolution, of creating a more and more subtle individuality, reaches a point where individuality is simply lost, so they say. But there is another point of view: individuality continues to evolve, it comes to such a subtlety that it may seem that it does not exist, since it has run out of attributes, you can not define it with concepts, because it has transcended them, but still exists. There is still “someone” who experiences, who lives events, but from a nonphysical level, extraordinarily subtle. But not because it is so subtle it is weak: on the contrary, when it is realized, it is extraordinarily stable, it does not affect any external event, it does not depend on anything to be, it is no object, no concept, it is pure subjectivity.

When the person meditates for many years, constantly practicing, but only in the line of development of consciousness itself, expanding it, its development tends to lead to a non-duality, not to identify itself as a being with separate existence, seeing only the whole, the total Being alone. So we become what we develop, and if you work only in this line, you advance only in it and not in others. In the same way, if we meditate on the ultimate nature of the mind, and only in that aspect, we can reach the bottom of the mind, which is pure clarity without objects, and thus we do not develop our subject consciousness.

But we can also work in the line of searching, reflecting and meditating on the subject of all experiences, on the central point of our field of consciousness. Instead of simply expanding our consciousness to the infinite, expanding it, we can also deepen it, bringing it to its center, beyond thoughts and concepts, asking: who is conscious? This is the path of realization of the ultimate subject. And it is not incompatible with others, but complementary: we can, and I think it is the best, to work our conscience in an expansive, broad way, and also to deepen, reaching the bottom, its origin, that punctual focus that is our individuality deeper. In this way our development is complete, and in addition follows the natural course of evolution, which we have already seen tends to create more and more subtle individualities. We will then know that there is only one total Being, but it is also true that we live it through our individuality, which is the natural product of evolution.

Meditation on individuality and self-realization

Individuality

The evolution of species has endowed us, the human species, the quality of developing a sense of individuality, the quality feeling ourselves as someone separated from the rest of our environment. At physiological level this ability is related to brain region called the neocortex, which also have all mammals, but in our species is especially developed.

From birth we have a potential for individualization, to be “someone” separated from the outside world. As the person physically developing from childhood, adolescence, reaching adulthood, personality is formed, that is, a psychological “construct“. Then the innate potential of individualization uses personality  to create the illusion of the existence of a separate, autonomous individual, an individual separated from the external environment.

We say illusion because personality is a more or less unstable web of ideas and memories: the person is not really their personality, but has a personality. Clear here there is a certain contradiction in terms: “person” comes from the Greek próposon, and referred to the mask worn by actors in Greek drama theater; clearly this mask shapes how the actor is shown, the person is the mask, personality, his performance, but the actor is not any mask.

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Ancient Greek dramatic masks

But what really makes us individuals is not any personality, but the ability to be individuals; we are individuals as we have the ability to be, the personality is built, and is renewed day by day as an expression of that innate ability.

Meditation on the ability of individuality

The mind has, among its many wonderful qualities, a particularly curious one: it is able to observe itself, as in a mirror, using the functionality we call attention, the ability to focus the mind on an object, whether physical either mental. Attention is usually either serving our thoughts or abroad if we are doing an activity that requires it. But we can train to serve one’s mind, delving beyond personality, reaching the bottom of the mind.

Level 1: relaxing body and mind

For a “standard” person, that is, a very busy one with an endless list of occupations, concerns, problems, etc., to divert attention from the thoughts can be difficult. That is why the first step must be to calm the mind, let her relax, but without losing the attention; thus we freed from his bonds attention. There are many useful methods to achieve this first stage, we will not talk about them here, just mention one of the oldest and most effective, besides simple: abdominal conscious breathing, which focus attention on the breathing process, to be be slow and relaxing.

Level 2: mindfulness

If we get some ability to stop the mind and yet maintain the active attention, without falling into drowsiness, we are ready to start the next most advanced stage: draw attention to the back of the mind, seeking to connect with our potential for individualization, trying to “see” with our attention without intermediaries. It is a process that can take months or years, but for us we have that possibility exists, and has been reported by numerous testimonies.

Even without fully complete attention-deep, the practice produces remarkable effects. When training such attention, we have the ability to direct or stop direct the focus at will, regardless of thoughts or external events. When we are able to direct attention at will, we can be aware of anything inside or outside, without thinking about it: is a state called mindfulness. There are currently a lot of literature about mindfulness, and mindfulness meditation, but indeed mindfulness is a state of the attention, not a meditation: you can reach the state of mindfulness through any meditation technique, once it has worked enough. We will not discuss here the benefits of such a state, because as we have already mentioned there a lot of literature. Mindfulness has also been described as an end, as a goal, but in fact it is merely an intermediate step in the process of self-knowledge and self-realization, a state that must be achieved before accessing deeper levels of self-knowledge.

Level 3: connecting with our deep self, self-realization

If the person really has a compelling need to know, to know himself until the very end, then he can continue working, deepening attention, looking for the source of the individual, seeking to live, feel, just the sheer ability to be someone, beyond any intellectual content. It is a very interesting process, because as we discussed is the mind itself that directs its focus beyond any object, whether physical or mental. A priori it seems a contradiction, that the mind is able to know a primary potential that is not related to anything, but with training and perseverance the goal can be achieved, and have done so many truth seekers of different traditions.

That ability to be someone is in itself a potential self, but a self do not leaning on anything, is a “self creator”, that from the experiences of life is surrounded by a personality through which it is expressed. But the inner self is not any expression, is no expression, is pure “selfhood”.

Effects of self-realization

When the mind connects with the pure potential of individuality we gradually realize we are somebody regardless of external circumstances, need not identify with anything outside to be somebody. In fact, absolutely everything that exists becomes external to the self: the person focuses on the deep I, and from there she “see” both inside world and outside world. As a result, absolute freedom of thought and action is experienced, because by not identify with anything regardless of all is achieved. Also, you are somebody, and that somebody is indestructible, no matter what happens: an  unusual mental and emotional stability  is achieved. The mind is always calm, not only during daily minutes of meditation; as a result the emotions are soft and positive, negative emotions do not fit in a calm mind and a trained attention. Fears also disappear because the person knows she is indestructible, being someone beyond body and mind.