I love fresh starts. Whether you move to a new city, start a new career or enjoy the excitement of a new love, new beginnings make life fun and exhilarating.
So at the dawn of a fresh year, rather than travel to Las Vegas or Times Square to ring in the New Year, I decided to stay in my room and see if I could find something new right here inside of me.
I walked into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror and the only new things I found were new wrinkles, thinning hair and bags under my eyes. I looked at the image and thought, “Same old guy.”
But then I remembered the quote, “When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.” So I decided to look under the hood, shift my view of the old story I tell myself about myself and see if I can uncover something new for 2022. Who am I, really?
Tell Me About Yourself
If I asked you to tell me about yourself you’d probably say: I’m a man, I’m a woman, I’m a father, a mother, a bus driver or a nurse. But all stories about yourself come from the past, right?
What if I asked you to tell me about yourself PRIOR to everything that ever happened to you in the past, now tell me about yourself.
You might say, “I’m not sure,” and pause in frustration.
Instead of looking to the past for who you are you might stop and look deeply inside yourself.
That’s what I did.
I found that the best way to find out who you are is to find out who you’re not.
So I walked over to the window and noticed the sun and thought, “The sun always shines.” Clouds cover up the sun but the sun always shines.
Like clouds in the sky thoughts come and go. I can’t trust my thoughts because they’re always changing. Thoughts aren’t facts.
I hear the sound of traffic outside my window. I smell coffee brewing in the kitchen. I feel my keyboard and mouse under my fingertips. The world appears through my eyes. Like clouds, my sensations are always changing.
Suddenly, I stopped writing and felt the weight of my body in the chair and asked myself, “What am I really experiencing in this moment?”
I see that this moment is made up of only 3 basic parts: stuff that happens in my mind (thoughts and memories)stuff that happens in my body (sensations)my awareness of these.
Stop. Take a second and check your own experience of this moment. Is there anything other than these 3 basic parts?
Thoughts and sensations are like the ever-changing clouds. Your awareness or perceiving presence is constant like the sun.
I opened my closet door to retrieve my meditation cushion. I sat down and asked myself again. “Who is this guy?
Am I this ever-changing stream of thoughts and sensations? Or am I the perceiving presence or awareness of all that stuff?
In that instant I realized: “I am awareness.”
I picked up the phone to call my friend. He answered and said, “What’s new?” I told him “I am.” I now understand that I am awareness itself. Thoughts and sensations appear within my awareness.
Wow, what a realization!
I went to bed.
I woke up at 4 am and while heading to the bathroom I stubbed my big toe on the bed frame and yelled F**K! I limped in agony for a good 5 minutes.
While hobbling around in the kitchen I noticed my shadow on the wall. My awareness is feeling a ton of pain right now. If my next door neighbor stubbed his big toe on the bed frame in the middle of the night would he be experiencing pain in his awareness? I’ll bet money on it.
I thought regardless of our gender, skin color, age, politics or musical preferences, he would be experiencing the same pain that I was experiencing in my awareness.
Could this realization be the end of the ever-present divisiveness we feel in our society today? Could it be that knowing that you and I are awareness itself is ultimately the glue that binds us all together?
It’s what we have in common. It’s always right here. It’s right behind your eyes. Like the sun, always shining.
What Is Water?
I love the story about a fish who asks his father, “I was swimming along when a crab passed by me and said, “How’s the water?” “What the hell is water, Dad?”
Awareness is like water. It saturates everything. We’re swimming in it.
If you thought back to your childhood would you say that you are that same perceiving presence? Your awareness has never changed. It is constant, like the sun.
This awareness might not be new but the realization that awareness is who I am is new to me.
I’m not my thoughts, emotions and sensations. I am awareness.
This new way of seeing requires vigilance. This vigilance is called mindfulness.
Maybe what the world is waking up to right now is that we are all essentially awareness. We are one. Realizing that there is no separation between us brings us to a natural compassion and kindness for one another.
This exploration into self-discovery leaves me with a deep peace and a fresh new outlook. I hope this letter helps you uncover a new YOU for 2022.
Let me leave you with one of my all time favorite quotes by Franz Kafka …
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you and be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Happy New Year to all my dear friends!