What is this essence behind all that we believe we are?
What is this core of what I am, what you are — not the me of the egoic sense self that is borne of ideas, memories, teachings, fears, desires, emotions, feelings, and expectations — but rather that which seems to dwell right here at the center, peering out through two orbits in the skull as observes the world unfolding? Who, or what, is this?
This deeper essence is always present whenever I look at the world, think about my physical pain or discomfort, worry about what may happen tomorrow, is disturbed about the state of the environment and humanity, or thinks back into the past. This stateless state is always there, always here, always present, always nowhere knowable. It is not alloyed to the body or the mind. I think sometimes how hard it is to separate this essence from the body, but then I realize that it cannot separate from a body that it has never really been a part of. So, the one who believes it needs to be separated is itself separated, forgetting that it is already whole and complete.
The belief of a bodily, dependent self in most of us is so strong that we cannot see that the body and a very conditioned mind are parts of a singular unity contained within the essence.
The essence, without any locus or center, never ages or changes, yet it witnesses the aging and changes of the body and all circumstances. It was there at the beginning, aware of the strange, strange world I once knew as a helpless infant, and it was still there all through childhood and adolescence. It was there during the great struggles of early adulthood, watching, watching, watching. Indifferently. How could I not have known that there is no me, only this essence? Why was this not obvious down through the years? All is gone except what is beyond thought and time, right now, and this great capacity for all yet remains as all else has dramatically changed through the seasons of life.
Even in the midst of the body’s agony, the essence is steadfast and untouched. It’s here always, unaffected. There is nothing to it but presence, and all that it observes is on present evidence, devoid of the usual overlay of the past, fears, and hopes to draw upon. It remains independent of, and unaffected by, the past that is made up of ideas, knowledge, beliefs, memories, experiences, hardships, joy, moments of triumph, births and deaths, struggle, relaxation and extreme stress. It alone persists in silent stillness, never involved yet remaining witness to the involvement, like a parent looking after a little child, carefully watching without interfering, unaffected by tantrums and immature suffering borne of frustration, immaturity, and attachments.
How deep does this silent stillness — this essence of what I am —go? As I turn the attention to it, or perhaps I should say as it turns its attention onto itself, there is eternity as its ineffable characteristic, an oxymoron to be sure. It seems to be inward, while all else seems to be outward, but this is a false impression — as false as believing that the essence is at all paired with any particular body. No, there is no in or out, nor up or down. The essence is here and everywhere, and it is impervious to time and space, though it is the space that holds all that appears to exist, arise, appear, and happen.
The world of phenomena and expressions emanates out of the essence. Thought arises from it to the tune of more than sixty thousand thoughts each day per person. Nothing is entwined with it. I am this essence, yet for so long I was fooled by a conditioned mind full of beliefs and attachments. No matter what seems to happen, this essence is indistinguishable and unfazed. It has given birth to nature in its complexity and dynamism, yet it is not itself an expression of anything. We have all arisen from it, yet in our ignorance we are apt to give credit to some invisible being that we have invented to make us feel secure in the madness and unpredictability contained within the essence.
The essence that is all of us and here in all things, has mysteriously spring forth to offer the world’s greatest beauty in a never understood cycle of downward causation that creates consciousness and matter; yet it alone remains unmoved, unchanged, undefined, unbounded, and mostly unnoticed. I am all of this, the great space and void in which all is contained and from which nothing is separate. You can see this if you are quiet enough to see past the chattering me and turn the attention around from the world you think is out there to the depths that are right here at its source.