What size is our life?
It’s an odd question, but the kind of challenge that gets us thinking… Does our life have a ‘size’? We can measure it in years elapsed, of course, and that may have a lot to do with how we think we got ‘here’. But that continuity is entirely in our head, and, has little to do with the real world of now, out there. It’s curious that we allocate more reality to the solid stuff beyond our eyes than we do to the supposed ‘supercomputer’ that is busy assembling all this into reality.
Eyes, it is always said, are the ‘gateway to the soul’. But they are also the gateway to what we are taught is the world. The eyes detect a vast part of what we assemble into that world – which exists only in the mind. And yet, when we look out with those eyes, we see a world with which we are totally involved, with no sense of distance or division, and no real distinction between the in-here and the out-there – that is only added when someone invites us to consider that there may be a duality at work. Even then, the duality may be false.
There are eyes, and then there is seeing. How big is our seeing? There’s another odd question. I know that science says that what sees is in my head, but how much of my head does it take up? Is it, symbolically, like a vast cinema screen that I watch all the time, except when I’m sleeping, and maybe even then – in the form of dreams; which may explain why they make so little sense. Perhaps the part of the supercomputer that makes things make sense sleeps, leaving the connected feed to the outside world intact… But that seems not to be the case. The senses shut down the second we fall asleep, which is why we drop that teacup onto the carpet when we fall asleep in our armchair. The dream, then, seems to deal only with what we already have inside us.
The ‘me’ seems to return with wakefulness, which shows how interlinked with ‘the world’ it is. It makes us wonder what the other, dreaming self, really is? Perhaps that dream awareness is more machine-like than we think? Or maybe it’s just connected to the universe in a different way…
Back to size. In my waking ‘self’, I don’t feel any size at all. I have been taught by the world that I’m a certain size, so I behave according to that and perhaps look to bolster my medium height with other strategies that make me important, which makes my-self feel good.
But really the ‘point’ of me has no size at all. It’s simply the act of watching. When my mind is not watching the world, it is usually in that dream state, because the constant change of sensual stimuli is not present. If there are changing things out-there, my mind is busy watching and interpreting them. There is even a kind of voice that narrates the watching, giving each thing its name, like in the Bible book of Genesis. We are not only close-coupled with the world, we are also habituated to narrating its stream of existence.
Why is our existence so complicated? Mystically speaking we have two answers: It may not really be so complicated at all; and, secondly, finding the answer is what makes the whole journey so worthwhile.
In order to get out of our habitual way of being locked into the world and give our deeper ‘self’ its rightful place, we need techniques that ‘shake’ the questionable foundations of our perception. One of these, handed down from the spiritual wisdom of old, is related our opening focus on size.
Place a candle in front of you. Lean forward to light it. Be conscious of the distance. Sit back in your chair and focus only on the very centre of the flame. Notice its twin nature, with intense brightness forming a ring around a sometimes black centre where the flame begins.
Now imagine that your world is the bright ring. See its constantly changing nature and watch how it commands your attention. Then gaze into the middle – the point of origination of the flame – and let your whole attention be drawn into the central dark area within the light. Feel the unity of both aspects of the flame but know that your own ‘point’ of true self is at the centre, and that the rest is a process of reflection. Imagine you are nothing (no-thing) in that central point, yet completely present to everything.
©Stephen Tanham 2021
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.