*Photo by Rossi Dimitrova
THE TRIANGLE OF THE SELF CENTER
Although the root of the self center is the “I” thought, the self center is more involved than that. Living Realization uses the term, “the triangle of the self center,” to describe all the ‘conceptual stuff’ that makes it appear that you are a story in time, like a movie.
The word “triangle” points to the three bundles of thought within that story: past, future, and present resistance. The self center is created and maintained through repeatedly identifying with and emphasizing the thoughts within these three bundles, instead of recognizing awareness as one’s real identity. You are that to which thoughts appear and disappear. You are not the thoughts themselves.
Take a moment now and just be aware of the voice in your head. Do this throughout the day, resting in awareness each time you notice the voice. What is the voice telling you about who you are, what has happened to you, and what may or may not happen in the future? Whatever it is telling you, that is your story—your self center. Whatever the content, it isn’t ultimately true and it isn’t you. See Chapter Nine: Core Story for a more detailed explanation of the content of our stories.
There is no reason to add to, analyze, change, neutralize, or get rid of the story. Just rest as awareness as often as possible, letting all these thoughts be exactly as they are. The movement to add to, analyze, change, neutralize, or get rid of the story just adds more to the voice in your head. It adds additional layers to the story. Relax and just rest, as often as possible, and just be alert to the content of your story. This practice of simply seeing and resting, alone, is tremendously powerful in waking you up out of the sense of being the self center.
1. The Past Bundle
The past is considered “who you are.” This bundle of thoughts includes everything you know conceptually about who you are and what life is. More specifically, this bundle includes your name, your identity, details about your family and childhood, your education, history, the roles you play, the titles you wear, and all other aspects of your personal story. This bundle includes all political, religious, spiritual and other ideas, opinions, and beliefs you hold, all of which are also part of your story whether you see it or not. This bundle includes any mental identification you have as a member of a group. When you say, “I am a Christian,” “I am a Muslim,” “I am a scientist,” “I am an American,” or “I am a Russian,” these are all concepts that provide a sense of being a separate self. They give you identity, separate and apart from others.
This past bundle includes all your ideas about the world and reality itself. Simply stated, the past bundle includes anything that apparently happened in the past or any idea that was formed in the past but that has now been reduced to a memory (i.e., a thought) and become a part of the conceptual story called “me and my life” or “life the way I see it.”
The only real point here is that these are all concepts. Everything you think about yourself is just that . . . a thought. It’s a learned idea. When we speak and act only from these learned ideas, we are like conditioned puppets, repeating and rehashing ideas that have been given to us. Nothing fresh or new comes into that loop. And so we continue acting within the same repetitive patterns. We continue entering into the same relationships, getting upset at the same things, arguing with the same people, and seeking the same pleasures and achievements in the future. We have no choice. This loop of thought controls our every move.
The bottom line is this: no matter what you think about yourself, it isn’t what you are. It is a thought. If you visited Texas, you would not walk up to the “Welcome to Texas” sign and claim adamantly that the sign is Texas itself. The sign is only a sign. It represents or points to something. In the same way, every concept within the past bundle represents or points to something. It points to your real identity, which is present awareness. You would not confuse the “Welcome to Texas” sign with Texas itself. In the same way, Living Realization invites you to stop looking to past concepts for a sense of who or what you presently are. Instead, simply take a moment right now, or any other time throughout the day when it is convenient, and recognize that which is looking, which is awareness itself. In doing this, it becomes clear and obvious that your real identity is the awareness to which all these thoughts appear and disappear.
This discovery has a profound effect on our lives. It naturally provides mental and emotional stability. It resolves an identity crisis we may not even know we were suffering from. In resolving that crisis, life begins to flow naturally and effortlessly. We live in joy and acceptance, instead of frustration, stress, sadness, fear and resistance. And yet, everything is allowed, including frustration, stress, sadness, fear, and resistance. These appearances are no longer seen to happen to a person. They are happening to awareness. Each appearance is seen to be equal, which means that it does the same thing—it appears, hangs around for a while, and then disappears. And awareness has no agenda to add to, change, neutralize, or get rid of the appearances. In the recognition of awareness, all is accepted, good and bad, just as it is.
The main point here is that there is nothing to add to, analyze, know, neutralize, overcome, figure out, get rid of, or do with any of the thoughts that appear from the past bundle. Just recognize that they are all concepts. You are not a concept. As each thought arises, simply notice it. In noticing, you don’t let go of the thought. It falls away naturally on its own, resolving itself back into present awareness. It leaves no trace.
If you begin to experience difficulty, frustration, or effort in recognizing awareness and letting all thoughts be as they are, just ask yourself: does it take any effort to let the next thought arise and fall? In seeing that it takes no effort, the next thought is allowed to be just as it is, and the next thought, and the next. Don’t force these thoughts to go away. Just take moments of resting in non-conceptual awareness as you notice a thought come to rest naturally on its own, like a snowflake falling to the ground. See that you are this space in which the thoughts come and go. You are the space in which the sense of difficulty, frustration, and effort arise and fall.
2. The Future Bundle
The future is considered “who you are going to become.” This bundle of thoughts includes everything you know or think you know conceptually about the future “you.” More specifically, this bundle includes stories about the next moment, tomorrow, next week, next year, and the rest of your life. Simply stated, it is anything that you believe needs to happen in the future for you to be more fully yourself or anything that you fear will happen in the future that will threaten your sense of self.
This bundle includes thoughts of future fulfillment with regard to relationships, jobs, career, money, material items, fame, prestige, attention, praise, and acknowledgement. All of these concepts fall under the umbrella of hope. The central, mostly unconscious, fuel behind each idea surrounding hope is as follows: I hope X will happen. If X happens, I will be ok. If X doesn’t happen, I won’t be OK. And so we try to manipulate appearances, believing ourselves to be this self center, all in an attempt to control future outcomes. We seek towards the future. This is an identity crisis. Hope revolves around the issue of identity. We are looking to the future to know that the self center will be OK. This seeking stops when we realize what we really are—awareness. We see that the future is really nothing more than presently arising thoughts, coming and going to awareness. In that realization, hope is no longer needed. We discover that we are eternally OK right now, and therefore always.
The future bundle is not only about hope. The flipside of hope is fear. The future bundle also includes any fearful thoughts about the future including failure, job loss, financial difficulty, divorce, embarrassment, illness, suffering and death. The central, mostly unconscious, fuel behind each idea surrounding fear is as follows: I fear that Y will happen. If Y happens, I will be threatened or will die. I have to make sure Y doesn’t happen. And so we try to manipulate appearances, believing ourselves to be this self center, all in an attempt to control future outcomes. In continuing to think about the future, we are avoiding the fear arising directly in our bodies. See Chapter Four: Emotions for a discussion of facing fear directly instead of trying to control outcomes through thinking. This avoidance of fear in the body keeps us locked in the grip of the future bundle. We are at the mercy of whatever fearful scenario thought conjures up. This is exhausting, mentally and emotionally. On the extreme end, it causes high anxiety and even panic attacks, which make it difficult for us to function in our lives.
In realizing that the future is really only presently arising thought coming and going in what we really are—awareness—we naturally relax. The fear is seen to dissolve into awareness whenever it arises, leaving no trace. We find that we don’t have to control outcomes. We can just let appearances be as they are. The voice in our heads starts to quiet. And even if the voice does not quiet, it no longer feels like thought is pointing to a future separate and apart from the awareness in which thoughts of future arise. We find peace with life either way.
The point here is that there is nothing to analyze, know, neutralize, overcome, figure out, get rid of, understand, or do with any of the thoughts that appear from the future bundle, regardless of whether the thoughts surround the notion of hope or fear. Just recognize that they are all concepts. You are not a concept. By continuously entertaining the future bundle, the self center is being maintained. This self feels separate and looks to future for completion. But completion cannot be found in time. Time is merely another thought. In other words, there is no way to entertain the notion of a next moment, a tomorrow, a next month, or a next year without thinking. Each of those is merely a concept appearing and disappearing within present awareness, which is what you really are.
Keep this simple: as each thought about the future appears, simply notice it. In noticing, you don’t let go of the thought. It falls away naturally on its own, resolving itself effortless back into present awareness. It leaves no trace because it is not appearing to a story. It is appearing to awareness, which is what you are. Recognizing awareness as your real identity resolves the identity crisis completely. The search for future dissolves in this seeing. Hope is no longer needed. It is seen as a fiction, something that was necessarily only until you realized the freedom and completeness inherent in the recognition of awareness. Fear no longer runs your life. It is seen to be based on a misperception, a future that exists only within a personal story, a self center. When it is seen that the self center is not your real identity, the fear that has been running that story dissolves.
3. The Present Resistance Bundle
The third bundle of thoughts within the triangle is the present resistance bundle. The self center keeps its sense of separation alive by resisting what is happening right now. This bundle of thoughts includes any mental interpretations of the present moment, especially those that are in resistance to your present experience including blaming, complaining, judging, comparing, and any other thought that makes it appear that something that is happening now ought not to be happening. Just notice what is happening in your present experience. Someone or something is bugging you, frustrating you, not moving fast enough, moving too fast, not being attentive enough, getting in your way, being mean, being too nice, not listening enough, or not doing what you want him or her to do. These are all thoughts coming from the self center that believes separation is real, that there really is a person here separate from what is happening “out there.” No such separation exists. It’s all a mental fiction.
The point here is that there is nothing to analyze, know, neutralize, overcome, figure out, get rid of, understand, or do with any of the thoughts that appear from the present resistance bundle. Just recognize that they are all concepts. You are not a concept. By continuously entertaining thoughts from this bundle, the self center is maintained. This self center is fueled by continuously resisting, through mental interpretation, what is happening in the present moment.
As each thought of present resistance appears, simply notice it. In noticing, you don’t let go of the thought. It falls away naturally. It leaves no trace. Notice that awareness is present when the thought falls away. Present awareness is what you are. In recognizing awareness, you see that awareness is naturally and effortlessly accepting of whatever is happening right now. You also see that whatever is happening is an appearance within awareness. You see that no appearance can appear without awareness. This is the seeing that appearances are inseparable from awareness. This is the true meaning of acceptance.
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