“We have only this moment,
sparkling like a star in our hand...
and melting like a snowflake.”

The Wall, pt.1

«The Infinite

Always has it been costly to me this barren hill
and this fence, which everywhere

from my sight
the ultimate horizon
But sitting and gazing, endless
spaces beyond it, and superhuman
silences, and a profound quietude
in my thoughts I take refuge; where for a while
heart does not torment me. And like the wind
that whispers through the leaves, I keep comparing
that infinite silence to this voice:
and upon me the eternal is revealed
and the dead seasons and the living
and present one, and it's sound. In this
immensity my thought is drowned;
and so sweet is the founder in this sea.»
-- Giacomo Leopardi

When we think of "will" or "want" we associate these ideas to the idea of ​​"I". We assume that this "I" has freedom of choice, or free will, or even that we decide what we choose, do or speak.

When I reflect and think about what is this "I" that wants, that decides, that acts, I conclude that perhaps the idea that we normally have of this "I" is something distorted and not in accord to what we can observe in ourselves and in Nature. 

Transcendence of the Wall

Our minds are extremely constrained by the language we use to think and communicate, as well as by our conditioning that our family, society and culture provided us. It is through this filter that we see the world. Our beliefs, thoughts, habits, emotions influence how we perceive the world, and consequently also the way we think and interact with it.

We have been taught since birth to think, see and react to this human experience the same way society does. Therefore when considering such issues we are putting ourselves in a situation where we are faced with this filter. We can also think of it as a great Wall that divides us and prevents us from seeing reality as it is.

Effort is required to transcend this Wall. Not an intellectual effort, because the intellect is too involved with this wall and is divisive in nature. It is rather an effort towards honesty, courage and humility. Not the sort of courage an animal might possess, but a courage that can help us face the truth completely stripped of our weapons and masks we use daily for our protection.

Who am I?

What can we know about this "I"? Who am I? What do I know about me? Apparently we have great many answers that we can throw upon these questions: our names, dates and places of birth, our parents, our sex, our history, our passions, habits, opinions, dreams, desires, vices, weaknesses, defects, traumas and so on. But do these actually respond to the question of "who am I"?

Surely most of us have realized the uncertainty of our lives. One day we may be inclined to act in a certain way, the next day we can be convinced to act in a totally opposite way. I'm not the same Bruno I was in my adolescence, although some features or trends might still endure. Also I am no longer the Bruno I was in my 20s. In addition there are also phases of our lives that can last months when certain sensations and emotions might lead us to interact in a certain way with life. After this phase gets over another one kicks in, and consequently our reactions and the way we experience life change accordingly.

Our whole being is changing all the time: our bodies, our thoughts, perceptions, emotions, attitudes. Is there something that does not change, something permanent that we can hold on too and call "I"?

The "I" as an idea, concept, dream, memory, can not really do justice to what we experience as sentient and sensitive beings. So what is the answer? Is there not an "I" but many "Is"? Tens? Hundreds? Thousands? One for every desire, whim, mood and thought? This is just another way of making sense intellectually of what is actually being experienced. It is not that which actually is.

But what mystery is that? Can we know it? Understand it? Maybe. But this understanding, it seems to me, does not come through an intellectual effort, or attempts to categorize and rationalize the problem of "I". It may even require an effort opposite to intellectualising: unlearning what we have learned. We may need to observe and deconstruct what separates us from the understanding: the Wall. 

Disenchantment from illusion

Our ideas of "I" and the "other", our mental and biological conditioning, our personality, habits, certainties, make up this wall or filter. It is an invisible barrier that we do not see. But it is not the presence of conditioning that keeps the wall standing. It is the belief that our conditioning is real that keeps the Wall standing. In other words the belief that we are these manifestations or objects of consciousness makes the Wall hard and impenetrable.

Another way to look at this "belief", or another useful word would be "grab", "attachment", "dependence", "bewitchment" or "enchanted". But we are not aware of this belief, or that we are dependent, or that we are in an automatic and unconscious process of reactionary obedience to these manifestations in Consciousness. We believe in them because in reality there seems to be no other alternative, there seems to be nothing beyond them. Because it has always been so since birth. From here arises a sense of identity and identification with the manifested, with the conditioning, with the observed.

When an emotion arises, like anger for example, it seems that it is us who decide to feel it, that it comes from us, that it is ours. and that we should act based on that emotion because we are actually experiencing it as ours. In other words when it manifests itself we believe in it, we believe we are it, and we obey it, and so our actions and speech become a manifestation of that anger. The same applies to thoughts, memories, habits etc. This "believing" keeps the wall firmly rooted in our being

When we believe we are the manifestations that occur in consciousness, we remain in a state of delusion and ignorance: unwitting slaves of impermanence.
Prisoners of a false reality that the Wall provides us.

The Observer

The question "but then who am I?" comes to Consciousness, but the one who poses the question is the form and conditioning. The answer to the question is in the observation of it. Who is aware of the question "Who am I? ". What does the observation of impermanence and uncertainty in our lives tells us?

For me it tells me that there is nothing that we can call "I". That there is only Consciousness observing impermanence of our internal and external processes. And it is this awareness that can wake up and thus transcend the illusion and understand its True Nature. This is something we all share, we are all experiencing this reality through Consciousness. There is no "my" or "your" consciousness, but the Consciousness that peeks through our eyes. We all are biological beings that capture awareness, to whom this ever-changing organic process known as Life arises. A process that accompanies and is intimately connected to and dependent upon the process that moves our planet and all other forms in the Universe.

The real choice

Our role, the best we can do despite all this chaos and uncertainty is to discover who we really are, through a process of self-observation. And make the decision, the most difficult, courageous and important one: to not let ourselves express through our acts and words the destructive and negative manifestations that we experience in our Being.
«An old Indian was giving a life lesson to his grandson.
There is a fight going on inside me. It is a terrible battle between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, grief, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other wolf is good - he is joy, peace, compassion, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth. The same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person too.
His grandson after thinking for a few minutes, asked
– Which of the two wolves will win?
The old Indian replied
– The one I feed »
The real choice, that can really have an impact on our lives, occurs at the time when we are aware of the negative manifestations before they become manifest in our actions and words. If we can create a space of time between observation and action, we can introduce the option in this space: do I express it? Or I would I merely observe it and let it fade?

The root of most problems of humanity is this fundamental ignorance of who we are. The unconscious belief that we are the observed rather than the observer. When in reality we are the infinity of space that contains, sustains and observes the manifest form. What is the solution? To know who we are. And more importantly, to be who we are: Consciousness, the Cosmos.

Please listen to the following track. A brief but very clear introduction by Ajahn Viradhammo to the practice of mindfulness, which is all about what I just wrote here:

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