Search & Read
Effects of Self-Knowledge
Jill: Hi, James. I hope all is going well wherever you are. It is supposedly winter here in Cape Town, but we have had t-shirt and shorts weather for almost two weeks. A nice respite from arctic temperatures.
Some thoughts on things that I’ve noticed over the last weeks. In no particular order! Just writing them down, as they are things I have been musing on from time to time and perhaps you have a view that would be interesting and revealing.
Life is still challenging, but in a way that matters less – I remain unaffected by it all. The other day I saw “myself” getting irate on the phone with the bank – and I was watching from what seemed the inside. It was not the inside so much, as there was a definite space between the mind-body and where awareness was. Actually, I laughed inside at the annoyed conversation as it was happening. I did not even keep up with the words coming out, but I marvelled at the eloquence considering I was not actively thinking about what was being said – which was super-interesting as the mind-body was obviously on automatic, and of course the fact that I noted a view from inside or behind Jill another form of awareness behind that. That was pretty interesting. This week too I’ve noticed that I can’t keep track of conversations around me, because they don’t hold my interest, there are just words coming out all around and it takes an effort to listen to it all! So I miss out chunks of what is going on because I’m parking off quietly there inside and I’m not really arsed about what’s being said. I actually find I get a headache from the onslaught of incessant talking. So I am going to have some quiet time this weekend and do whatever I feel like as its happening! I have experienced it before but in a slightly different way – several years ago I felt for a while like I was in a bubble and that nothing that people were saying made sense, words seemed distorted and my head hurt just trying to listen.
James: Dear Jill, lovely to hear from you. Sorry for the delay, but fame has struck with a vengeance and I have many emails to attend to and, sad to say, yours had to sit in the queue like all the rest in spite of the fact that I find it fascinating.
I will refrain from giving it a name (so you don’t get a big head about it ☺), but what is happening is undoubtedly the result of assimilated self-knowledge. When you “get it” there is a subtle but noticeable experiential shift from the body-mind/ego’s point of view to the self’s point of view. The various statements you made throughout this email “Life is still challenging but in a way that matters less – I remain unaffected by it all,” “I’m parking off quietly there inside,” and, “I was in a bubble and that nothing that people were saying made sense,” (thank God, eh?) “I sat” inside myself “happy and content” and finally, “A lot of the time I’m getting the sensation that I am pulling out of ‘the world.’” “The feeling is very much of separating out of it, almost like stepping out of a heavy, hot suit I’d been wearing for the day. I don’t get the feeling at any particular time, but I feel it a lot,” show that a shift in understanding has taken place. It takes a while for the effect of knowledge to work out experientially. Jill is not being transformed, your identity as Jill is transferring to the self, and this is what it feels like.
When I say that Jill is not being transformed I mean that the person Jill is not becoming a better/different person; you are just sitting on the other side of the gap between awareness – you – and Jill. Yes, you were always sitting on the other side, but self-knowledge has made you aware of this fact. A lot of people who want transformation want a transformation away from their “Jill” because they do not really like themselves as they are. They want “Jill” to be different. It never happens, except in the sense that that “Jill” is constantly transforming because she is not separate from the sea of change in which she lives and moves and has her being. The transformation people – God bless them – imagine a pure and perfect “Jill” with all sorts of wonderful qualities and radiant well-being, but as you say, you watched that “Jill” carry on being angry and it was very amusing. It was amusing because you have shifted from the unreal center called “Jill” to the real center, awareness. The knowledge you assimilated when you attended the talks in Cape Town is bearing fruit. I particularly liked your statement that you could hardly keep up with the words. It means that that “Jill” at that moment was just a rajasic program and what she said seemed incomprehensible from the stillness on the other side of the gap. There is a beautiful statement in the Bhagavad Gita: “What is day for a wise person is night for a worldly person.” A wise person is the self, sitting on the other side of the gap. There is another lovely verse from the Upanishad, “Two birds sitting in a tree. One eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on.”
By far the most significant statement is “there was another form of awareness behind that.” This is something to think about. How did you know that “form of awareness”? Hint: Who is that?
Jill: I know in the Gita there is that thing about not fasting, etc. but I have found fasting to be really useful to clear the mind, well, not so much fasting as in not eating, but rather juicing. I have eaten predominantly raw food for a number of years, but as always, one lunges for a large piece of chocolate saffron cake from time to time and a nice glass of red wine. Every now and again I go on a juice fast, which is not really not eating, it’s just drinking a lot of vegetable juice to give your digestive organs a break. The last time I did it was a few weeks ago for about seven days and it was an eye-opener of note from the Vedanta viewpoint. Because everything had become super-simplified in terms of what I was eating, and I did not want anything else, it was unbelievable to see how the body automatically responds and reaches for objects to satisfy itself. Wow, it was a revelation to see it in that way. I sat “inside myself” happy and content, and watched how the cravings came up and went through the days. It eventually slows. After seven days I did not want to eat, and because I felt like that I made myself eat immediately!!
A lot of the time I’m getting the sensation that I am pulling out of “the world.” The feeling is very much of separating out of it, almost like stepping out of a heavy, hot suit I’d been wearing for the day. I don’t get the feeling at any particular time, but I feel it a lot. Does that make sense?
Ram: Not only does it make a lot of sense, it is a great blessing, as you will see as time passes. Don’t worry that you will lose Jill. She will still be there carrying on as usual. She will just appear as a peculiar and entertaining object, like a quirky, good old friend. I say not to worry because it is important not to interfere with this process – although I think it is irreversible in your case. Some people – God bless them – have a sentimental attachment to their Jill and struggle with this process for fear of “losing” themselves. But self-realization is not the loss of Jill – there is really nothing to lose – it is regaining your true spiritual nature, which includes Jill. But once this process is complete, Jill will not be sitting the middle of the web of life, the web of life with little Jill will be sitting in you.
This happened because you were able to listen to the teachings properly. Listening is very difficult and it explains why some people who are attracted to Vedanta leave it. They leave it because they interpret what Vedanta is saying in light of what they think or believe. But listening means that you are able to suspend your views long enough to hear the truth and then you interpret your views in light of what you have heard, keeping those views that are in harmony with it and discarding those that aren’t.
Jill: One of the more interesting areas for me to watch things is in the work arena. I have always “worked” incessantly and “done” a lot and “tried to do” a lot. But this year I have completely stopped that and am only dealing with what comes up. I wonder about whether I should perhaps be making some sort of effort to move things along in certain arenas at the office, but I feel that if it’s not happening then perhaps it is not meant to and I must wait for that energy “to do” to come and then I will do what needs to be done. For example, I have an idea I have wanted to progress for a number of years and I have begun to put that in place, but I am only working on it as the urge takes me instead of trying to make it happen right away. I am not sure if I am talking myself out of doing stuff or whether I am genuinely going with the flow of things. I have found without a doubt that the urge to “make things happen” is practically non-existent. I don’t really care either way. I am mainly focusing on what comes up in front of me and doing what needs to be done there and then, watching who comes into my space, what they ask of me and fulfilling my obligations, that sort of thing, and the stuff around the idea also has moments when it comes up and so it has indeed progressed. I guess if your mind is in the space of doing, doing, results, success, etc. and you’re in that mode ongoing, then it is that that strengthens the vasanas?
Ram: That is correct, Jill. Stick with the idea that you should let things evolve and not push them. Everything is unfolding on its own and will come to fruition in good time. Pushing things rarely works, it is exhausting and why waste energy when the result will come anyway? Pushing is just ambition, desire.
Jill: And through these last six months an awful lot has happened and changed on the work front although at the same time absolutely nothing at all has happened!!
Ram: As the Gita says, “The one who sees action in inaction and inaction in action is indeed wise.” Or as the French say, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more it changes, the more it stays the same.
Jill: I think most people I know would have had a hairy conniption, nervous breakdown and who knows what else if they were experiencing what has been going on my life the past while. I do not find it even worthwhile enough to speak about, so no one other than my business partner and I are aware of the details.
Ram: Wise policy, Jill. “Let not the wise unsettle the minds of the ignorant.” Gita again.
Jill: And I have really felt very calm and at peace with it all. At one stage I felt slightly anxious, but at all times I was aware it was not really me and that I am the one that validates what happens in the world around me, not the other way around. And so it has not been all that dramatic, and within it all there is the quiet space that permeates everything. And this week we have had two very positive bits of feedback on work and absolutely nothing inside of me responds to that – there is no excitement, it just is.
Ram: Very cool. You are right on track.
Jill: The other thing with the juicing and raw food is that it keeps my mind clear enough that there is heightened sensitivity to the gunas. I think I am mostly sattvic, as I feel pretty calm most of the time, sometimes the rajas comes up and that’s when I get a bit irate, usually with my mother ☺ and very quickly it passes. Tamas for sure after a glass of wine. But otherwise there is not much up and down so far that I have experienced.
It could all change, I’m sure, very swiftly. I have always been pretty calm, except when I was caught up in my work, and then if anyone asked anything of me I would get irate.
Not in the work context, but out of work, mostly my mother.
Ram: Those pesky mothers! I loved my mother totally but she was a bit of a pill sometimes.
Jill: I do find I am more open to helping people than ever before. That instead of being annoyed by being asked I actually listen more closely to hear what life is asking of me. It’s quite satisfying. I am not sure any longer what I should be doing; things feel in a great state of quiet flux (which is probably normal!), so all I can do is meet life with an open heart and see what it is asking of me and do what needs to be done. It is really as simple as that, is it not?
Ram: Absolutely. We call it following dharma, just responding naturally to what life brings.
Jill: And looking at people and seeing that they are just a body with awareness in them, and that we’re all the same in that regard. I do that in meetings, watch the interplay and dynamics and see it as one fluid scenario. Anyhow, that’s it for now. Sending you much love.
Ram: Appreciation is always appreciated, Jill. I love this email!
Jill: Oh, yes, there is a guy called Swamiji (Swami Parthasarathy) who is due to be in Cape Town in August to give a chat to some Young Presidents Organisation on Vedanta. And then he is doing another chat for others, so I think I and a couple of others will go and check him out. Do you know him at all?
Ram: Yes, he is a guru brother. We both had the same guru, Swami Chinmayanda. He is a big shot in the Vedanta world. Has a big Vedanta school in India, hobnobs with the great and the good. He is a good guy, an aristocrat for sure, but a good guy.