“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are” – Anais Nins
In high school we had a class called TOK (theory of knowledge) where we were challenged to question our understanding of the world. I remember when I first read the quote above I immediately felt an unequivocal shift in my understanding and perception of things. The feeling was quite similar to what you experience when you finally see a camouflaged object in a picture, or look at it from a different perspective and find a completely new dimension. In this class we were taught to sort of distrust many of the structured beliefs that we had, or at the very least be wary of the foundations. To me this class led to a spark of ideas that I always struggled to explain to others. Some of the other students approached TOK like any other class, read the information and reiterate it during exams, simple as that. But for me, the more I went to these classes the more my values and identifications felt threatened. I found myself asking upsetting existential questions such as “what is my purpose? What do I actually know? Who am I as a person?” This was the first time I consciously experienced the resistance of my ego, my resistance to accept the possibility that I´m actually not that important, the possibility that MY beliefs and MY sentiments are merely manifestations of a false sense of being highly dependent on my immediate surroundings. After becoming aware of this realization I decided to suppress it. After all, you don’t exactly becoming the life of a party when you abruptly start discussing existentialism and spiritual emergence.
Now, I find myself being pushed to reconsider my views on the mechanisms of life. I am not exactly changing my views but rather becoming more aware of them. I find myself asking, is there a different way to live a more prosperous and fulfilling life outside of the already defined pragmatic dynamics? If so, what would this life look like?
Descartes once said, “I think, therefor I am.” It was through reading some of the works of Rupert Spira (spiritual teacher), that I was first introduced to the idea that most of us are actually living unconsciously and that Descartes´s statement is misleading. Spira teaches about our tendency to be consumed by a thought-possessed awareness, which disguises itself as true awareness. The teachings of Buddha also support this idea that a believed self is not necessarily ones true self. Other spiritual teachers also claim that the majority of our actions come from a source of ignorance. They explain that evil stems from an unobserved mind. Feelings of greed, hate and jealousy are all rooted from an egoistic mind, which we are so reluctant to break free from because we identify with it so intensely for various reasons. Spiritual teachings encourage transcendence from this thought and form based consciousness to deeper and more profound levels of consciousness. This is often referred to as achieving higher consciousness. It is commonly described to be a dimension free from the incessant commotion produced by the mind. This is said to be a peaceful state in which we are better positioned to notice a lot of vital details that we formerly overlook with the futile use of our senses. It is a position where we experience divine relief from all the constraints that the mind has bestowed upon us. The mind is tirelessly talking and predominantly telling us that we need to solve and understand things in order to further fill an insatiable need for satisfaction. Yet the path to said satisfaction is inaccessible through the dimension of the mind. For as much as we may force ourselves to think happy and positive thoughts the mind is not equipped to be that medium. In fact, the mind is a hindrance in this stage as it attempts to take on a role that it can never understand due to its limited structure.
If we are truly unaware what are the implications? It implies we are impulsive. It implies that we make decisions out of self-interest and rarely consider the repercussions. It is a mind pattern that has always been observed in humans but until recently the consequences of this egoistic propensity to consume has become increasingly ominous. Marketers aim to keep us in this state of unawareness because it is rather easy to manipulate an egoistic mind. It is even easier to manipulate a group of egoistic minds. It all comes down to pushing the right buttons of the ego as it seeks a particular set of emotions. The ego seeks to be admired, loved, epitomized and stroked. This is why the most successful companies boldly promote the idea that all the needs of the ego can be fulfilled. Of course, they do not do this explicitly. Instead, it is hidden in disingenuous communication. So we´re told certain brands will make us stand out and the things we invest in will ultimately bring us everlasting joy. This has never been the case because we all know as soon as there is a newer model of something, the older model automatically depreciates in sentimental value and the chase never ends. We know this so well! In fact most people I speak with will agree that possessions are not vital to happiness and fulfillment. People readily claim that money does not buy happiness. Yet, nobody truly believes that because we allow our unmonitored egos to diverge us to relentlessly want something better and money often provides the means. Marketers are very well aware of the susceptibilities the ego and they target this with relentless efficiency. The examples are apparent in all advertising. Drug advertising unambiguously articulates, “give us money and we´ll make you feel better.” Yet, we continue to invest from a source of unawareness. We invest without asking questions because, to some extent, we believe our needs are being genuinely met. Marketers would rather keep us oblivious to the fact that wanting is very different than needing and as we remain in the egoistic false sense of self, sellers are empowered to proceed with the perfect scheme, in which they promise something they can never truly deliver. Happiness.
The Pursuit of Happiness
I remember Will Smith´s character wittingly dazzling the recruiters in the movie “Pursuit of Happiness.” It was a good movie and I remember thoroughly enjoying it. But years after watching it I find myself strongly disagreeing with the notion that happiness is something we need to pursue. For happiness is already within us but we lack the strength and commitment to see it. The mind has constructed a world of duality wherein we see light as the opposite of darkness. In this context pain must exist in order for joy to prosper. In economics someone has to lose money for someone else to make money. It is a system that we built in order to restore balance but instead the opposite is being enforced. I was always told to work now and play later. In my head this implied suffer now and have fun later. I never understood why I couldn’t have fun while working. Shouldn’t that be the ultimate framework?
In a dualistic approach how can love be genuine? My father always told me that we lived in a cruel world where if I do not have anything attractive to offer I would not have any friends. We like to think of ourselves as a considerate species when really we are unconsciously and greedily biased in selecting those we call friends. We all have good or bad feelings about people that we decide to act upon. Someone once asked me how I could control my feelings, how I generally remain calm in the midst of chaotic situations. I don´t necessarily control my feelings but its very important that we remain aware of them and recognize where these feelings stem from. Most of the time we will notice that feelings, especially negative ones, stem from misguided thought processes. Feelings mostly come from a conditioned and biased mind and we if we can recognize that we will also realize its vanity, thus rendering it powerless.
Unconditional love is this wonderful thing we talk about that most of us are unable to provide. It is impossible for unconditional love to be present in the unconscious mind, in a dualistic mind. Unconditional love, what many call true love, is very rare as love can easily transform to hate in most cases when a specific set of needs or expectations are not met, rendering it conditional. And so we constantly pursue love and happiness with the idea that we are approaching a purpose, a purpose that a previous job or lover could not fulfill. We march on convinced that the next one will be better because we know ourselves better and we know what we seek to become happy, oblivious to the fact that it is an endless cycle of deceptive thought patterns. We may for a moment be happy and think we merit the spoils but it wouldn’t be long until we are emotionally lurking again. In an unconscious state we can never feel fulfilled and we will maintain a victim mentality, because a mind influenced world of duality is an unstable world, a world doomed of an endless quest to quench an unquenchable thirst.
So what if there is a different way of living, a way that takes into account a larger embodiment of consciousness. Could this be the next step in human evolution? It is obvious that we are reaching a peak era in our existence and something needs to change. I admire all the environmental efforts done to ameliorate our destructive tendencies but will it be enough to put tape on a wound that will always reemerge? Or do we have to look at more lasting solutions through realizing and defeating the groundless inclinations that we all have within us? We need to spiritually awaken and let go of the emotional burden that a false sense of self has bestowed upon us.
I know a lot of people will wonder, the same way I did, what will be left at the point of spiritually awakening? Will we then just sit around like monks not worrying about anything? What’s the point of leading such a nonchalant lifestyle? How can we progress without defining things? What about goals, achievements, loving someone special? How can someone be both content and ambitious? In an awakened state all these questions carry very little weight for these are questions of the ego and you can witness its resistance. Actually, many will claim that accomplishing goals and becoming successful are things that inadvertently get fulfilled once the inner spiritual energy is realized. This inner realization is sometimes described to be God. Many devout believers who surrender themselves to a higher power, a higher consciousness, will corroborate that they have accessed limitless potential from within. Tupac said that when he wrote he used to “close his eyes and let God do his thing.” Many artists will confirm to having experienced similar influences.
I don’t want to pretentiously sit here and claim that I am familiar with the spiritual path that will fix all world problems. I can merely attest to having experienced instances where I can shut my mind and see the world as it is and it is a beautiful place that we routinely neglect. We are raised to be ignorant of a world beyond our limited senses and we erroneously ask ourselves what the world can give us instead of what we can give it. Labels such as culture, religion and traditions separate us and maintains groups of egoistic minds. I think we should let go of these labels and focus on allowing our true selves, our souls to emanate. For it is through this source we can learn to genuinely love one another. It is from this source that we will learn to do amazing things that we thought were impossible. It is from this source we will recognize that things like terrorist attacks, corruption and exploitation are not mainly African and Middle Eastern problems but actually world problems. Our economic and political systems are broken, and I am not saying that from a professional perspective but from a human one.
As a people we are afraid of change. We are afraid of letting go of the confined but familiar walls we spent years building. For the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t. Now I am not saying we should tear down everything and live as we did during the Stone Age. Life is not a Disney movie and we often have to deal with pragmatic aspects. But if you have a modest roof over your head, food consistently on the table and the ones you love are in good health then you have everything you need to be reasonably happy. Nothing else really matters that much. I predict that one day when I will lie on my death bed the only questions I will ask myself are was I able to spend as much time as possible with the people I love and was I able to show them?
I am not a very religious person in a traditional sense but allow me to conclude with a quote from Jesus.
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Thank you for reading