Reviewing My Spiritual Life
By Mariamne Paulus
Sometimes people say that when we die we do a review of our whole life to see what we have learned and what we would do differently. I find that I am in a continual process of review since I turned seventy almost seven years ago. I should be well prepared when I finally cross over!
Ever since I turned 72 and finished my long-standing writing project with the publication of Yin, Yang and You: the Forces of Co-Creation, I have been asking within, “What’s next?” I knew I needed a new purpose and some new objectives that would keep me vitally alive for this last quarter of my lifetime. I am delighted to announce that my inner voice has spoken. Here’s how it unfolded.
In search of a new purpose, I reflected back. I realized that my deepest longing to know God/the One and to do what was wanted of me had been fulfilled. The first part of that longing was met in my experiences of awakening at age 27 in which the desire to know God was completely satisfied by an experience of Oneness. And I have been “doing what was wanted of me” for the past 49 years.
Does that mean I have nothing to look forward to, nothing more to long for, no purpose for the rest of my life? Seeking understanding, I reread my description of my awakening experiences in my book My Journey Into Self: Phase One. I decided to discern to what extent I had fully embodied what I came to know back in 1965.
These were the truths revealed to me then:
l We live in an energy world and there is no such thing as a separate “self”
l All things and persons are part of one whole and nothing and no one is separate from any other
l Physical bodies are perfect and beautiful manifestations of our states of consciousness
l Sexual intercourse, love relationships, friendships, family and community are all attempts to find, enact and experience the union with others that already exists in energy
l Death has no power over consciousness
l There is nothing in life to fear; we can live in full joy
l Every single person is of infinite worth, no matter who he or she is or what he or she is doing with his or her life
l Time and space exist only as concepts in the rational mind
l All power is available to us to do and be anything and everything
l I am all and nothing at the same time.
My principle teacher in this lifetime, Vitvan, once said, “We can focus our own light and see a reflection of the higher worlds even before we can function in those higher worlds in the individualizing process.” I now understand that in my awakening I saw that kind of reflection. I saw what is true in the higher and finer frequencies of consciousness before I was able to consistently function there. Now I look to see to what extent I am able to function in the truths that I saw reflected back in 1965.
Item #1: I Am Nothing
The first insight back then, which came as an astonishing revelation, was that I am nothing. When stated out of context, this sounds like a negative thing. It was not. It was absolutely liberating. I had been earnestly seeking, from the time I was very young, to be a “good Christian.” No matter how hard I tried and no matter how much I prayed, I always fell short of the standard I had been taught in church. The realization that I was nothing, absolutely nothing, freed me from that long struggle.
The first step into the functional realm was, paradoxically, to learn to receive myself as beautiful exactly as I was/am, because as long as I was focused on what was wrong with me, that consumed my awareness. When I was trying to become a “good Christian” I continually found fault in myself and felt confirmed in my belief that I was born in sin. After my awakening I realized that those who taught me that I had been born in sin had lied. I was, as we all are, perfect when seen according to higher truths.
The challenge then became to be able to appreciate that perfection so that it was not just a concept but rather a direct experience. That, I discovered, required an open heart center and clear understanding.
So I practiced actively breathing through my heart chakra all day everyday, as often as I remembered to do so. I disciplined myself to breathe through my heart chakra wherever I was. I didn’t let myself off the hook when someone’s outer appearance was particularly repugnant to me, like a drunk and dirty homeless man slumped by the curb outside our supermarket. I sat down nearby and focused on breathing through my heart chakra, receiving him fully and sending him love. I discovered that when directing and receiving energy through the heart chakra a higher level of perception opens. We see through eyes of love, and we see only beauty.
The Beauty of Essence
Unconditional love allows us to see beauty, not by evaluating as the objective mind does, but by being present to essence. Essence is the inner quality of a person or thing. It cannot be appreciated if we focus only on the outer, observable characteristics. In fact, to be present to someone is to allow an exchange of energy that establishes an intimate connection on the spiritual level. It causes a quickening of the spirit, the thrill of which moves through the whole energy field and awakens joy.
Most of us have a spontaneous and momentary experience of this kind of perception when we see an infant of almost any species. On an in-breath we gasp, “Oh, how beautiful.” On the objective level, the infant may not in fact be beautiful. But in those early stages following birth, the infant is still very transparent and the essence shines through.
What do we experience that is so beautiful? Perhaps it is the life-force itself. It is that same life-force that we see in a vibrant flower when it opens or in a tree when it sprouts new leaves in spring. We gasp, not at the external characteristics but rather at the presence of that essential life-force that we share in common.
It is that shared essence that binds us together with others, even with strangers, when we open our heart chakras and allow an exchange of that vital life-force. And we thrill to the awareness of that same vitality when we breathe through the heart chakra to be present to ourselves. We are able to receive ourselves as beautiful because we share the same life-force with everything and everyone that is, and when we let it shine through us we are beautifully alive.
It was through the heart chakra, then, that I learned to love myself unconditionally, to affirm “I find no fault in you.” What a dramatic turn-around that was from my early conditioning that I was born in sin and therefore was perpetually unworthy unless I could be “saved” by Jesus. To be able to affirm that I did not need saving would have been considered blasphemy in those early years. Now it feels like stepping into the light of truth.
However, learning to love myself did not translate into living in the knowing that I am nothing.
The Power of a Sense of Self
In the first several years after awakening I was not aware that I was still totally identified with my personality and thus was living in a waking dream. I moved from one sense of self to another. Each sense of self spawned its own dream material. In my unworthy sense of self, for example, I could never feel completely loved; there was always an underlying suspicion that if the person expressing love for me saw the “real me” they would no longer love me. That was my waking dream, unrelated to reality.
As I examined my many senses of self I realized that they totally ruled the world of my experience. I could change my experience just by changing my sense of self. If I went to be with my birth family in my sense of self as outsider (because I was not raising a family and was doing a work that most of my family did not understand), I felt completely unrecognized and unloved. If, on the other hand, I went in my sense of self as one who is loved, I not only felt recognized but I noticed all the ways family members expressed their appreciation for me.
This was the mind-blowing dimension of discovering that life is a waking dream. I discovered that what I experienced was totally a product of my sense of self. I could change my experience just by changing how I felt about myself. It was as though circumstances and other people aligned with my sense of self and reflected back to me what I was putting out in energy.
All senses of self are in relation to another person or a situation. They depend on the other both for their definition and for a confirmation of that definition.
All of this was very liberating because I could wake up from any given waking dream and change my reality consciously. However, in none of these senses of self did I know myself as nothing.
Functioning as the Higher Self
In the same time-frame as I was learning about Waking Dreams and how to awaken from them I was learning, in our Theatre of Life program, the functions of the Higher Self to which I had awakened in 1965. I learned that when I directed myself to change my sense of self it was as Higher Self that I was able to make that choice. I learned that creating my reality consciously was also a function of Higher Self. And perhaps the most powerful function of Higher Self is that of observation. Only by observing myself could I see what reality I was creating and how I was creating it.
The three primary functions of the Higher Self, observing, directing and creating, were faculties of my consciousness that I had awakened and that I was actively using, but I was not identified with them. I was identified with the result, the outcome. When I was asked, “If you had experiences of awakening at age 27, why don’t you live in that knowing?” the question jolted me into an awareness that I was still identified with the self that longed to awake.
As I began to identify with the Higher Self, that is, to know myself as Higher Self, I slipped into senses of self less and less often. I finally realized that any sense of self was an indication that I was identified with personality rather than Higher Self. Any sense of self sent me into a waking dream. Without a sense of self, I identify instead with the faculties of consciousness with which I express my awareness; I am focused on what I am sending forth into the world rather than on how I feel about what others might be feeling or thinking.
I was learning to function from the “I am nothing” awareness.
Back in 1965 when I realized that I was “nothing, absolutely nothing,” I had no real grasp of what that meant. I experienced the liberation of not feeling that I had to become something and prove that I was something, but I didn’t know how to understand that I was nothing.
On the morning after my initial experience of being nothing I awoke having had a dream that I was a room and someone was moving everything out of the room, emptying it. I thought then that it was mental concepts that needed to be replaced. I see now, 49 years later, that it was the entire content of my personality that needed to be emptied: mental concepts, beliefs, attitudes, habits of feeling, thinking and doing, opinions, preferences, world views, etc. etc.
As I identified more and more with Higher Self I came to see the personality as the vehicle through which I express my awareness. The less encumbered the vehicle is with memories, preferences, opinions and the like, the more agile it is in expressing what I am aware of in each new moment. The personality vehicle is essential to my learning and growth, so it is not “nothing” in the sense of being unimportant. But it is not who I am, and it is not a “thing” that is unchanging. In that sense it is no-thing, or no-self. It is a wonderful paradox of being absolutely essential to my learning and growth and yet nothing in and of itself. No wonder the Greek word “persona,” meaning “mask,” is the root of our word personality. The personality is like an outer covering through which I express myself in the world.
When I function as Higher Self I have no sense of self, or I could say I am functioning without identification with the personality through which I am relating. What is this like? I gaze out on the world around me without waiting for feedback or a reflection. I am focused on what I observe and on the response I wish to make. I direct my energy into what I want to create. My focus is on the act of creating rather than on the result. The “I” is a portal through which a universal, impersonal energy flows. This “self” is a conscious, radiant activity rather than a “thing.”
I read somewhere that wu wei is acting without a sense of self and is the highest virtue in Taoism. In my experience it is an act of aligning with inner perception and balancing outer expression with that inner knowing. When I do that I feel totally at peace with myself and with the world. I do not engage in second-guessing. Rather I focus on my awareness of what is happening in the moment so that I can respond to that in full consciousness.
My invisible spiritual nature, or essence, is Presence. When I am utterly present in the now moment, I experience the essence of all that is around me, and anyone who is present to me will experience and know my essence.
To function through the no-self is to be able to live totally in the here and now.
After reflection I am satisfied that I have finally developed far enough in the individualizing process to function consciously in the no-self. Sometimes I am pulled out of my awareness of the moment by thoughts which wander into the past or the future, but I am able to catch myself very quickly these days and return to the silence and utter presence of the no-self. Vitvan says that perceptive understanding makes it possible to communicate what we see and to stand in it. I am happy to be able to communicate what I see about being “nothing” or “no self” and to stand in and function through that awareness.