Friday 16 May 2014

How to attend to ‘I’?

A friend wrote to me recently saying that he had been practising meditation for many years, and that since he heard of Sri Ramana he had become fascinated by him and had read as much as he could about his teachings, but that he could not understand how to concentrate on and experience ‘I’. The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to him:

When you write, ‘I am having some trouble experiencing the I’, that seems to imply that there are two ‘I’s. The first ‘I’ (the ‘I’ in ‘I am having some trouble’) is clearly experienced by you, because if it were not you would not be aware that it is having some trouble, so why should this ‘I’ that you clearly experience take the trouble to experience some other ‘I’, which you think you are not able to experience?

The fact is that we all experience ‘I’ or ‘I am’, and the ‘I’ that we experience is the one and only ‘I’ that we can ever experience. Moreover, ‘I’ is our most fundamental experience, and is the basis for everything else that we experience. However, though we clearly experience that I am, we do not clearly experience what I am, so we need to investigate this ‘I’ in order to experience it as it really is.

Because we are constantly attending to things other than ‘I’, our experience of ‘I’ is clouded over and obscured. That is, it is never completely hidden, but it is mixed up and confused with other things such as our body and mind. Therefore our aim is to experience ‘I’ alone, in complete isolation from all other things, and in order to experience it thus, we need to try to be aware only of ‘I’ and thereby to ignore everything else.

You say, ‘I can’t find any concrete way to experience I because I don’t know what I looks like [...] I can’t concentrate on something I can’t imagine’, but there is no need to imagine ‘I’, because ‘I’ is already our most direct and immediate experience. How do we know that I am? We know it because it is our first and foremost experience.

We can doubt the reality of everything else that we experience, because it could all be an illusion, but we cannot doubt that I am, because in order to doubt or to experience anything we must exist, so the experience ‘I am’ is the only experience that cannot be an illusion. What we seem to be (the person called Edward, who consists of a body and mind, and who you now experience as ‘I’) could be an illusion, but the underlying experience that we are (whatever we may actually be) cannot be an illusion, because to experience anything (whether real or illusory) we must exist.

Any need to imagine something can only arise when we are not actually experiencing it, but since we always experience ‘I’, we need never imagine it. Indeed, we should not even try to imagine it, because whatever we imagine is something other than ‘I’. Any imagination is only temporary, whereas our experience of ‘I’ is permanent, so no imagination can be ‘I’.

We have never experienced any time or any state in which we have not experienced ‘I’, because whatever else we may experience, we always experience it as ‘I am experiencing this’. In other words, ‘I’ is the experiencer of every experience, and ‘I’ always experiences itself as ‘I am’ (or to express this more directly, I always experience myself as ‘I am’).

Any other type of meditation can be described as a bhāvana (an imagination), because it is a process that involves imagination, but ātma-vicāra (self-investigation) or meditation on self is not a bhāvana, because ‘I’ is beyond all imagination, being the foundation on which any imagination is built, and hence it can never be captured as a mental image.

You say, ‘I don’t know what I looks like’, which is true, because ‘I’ does not look like anything: indeed, it is not like anything whatsoever. We are able to recognise things other than ‘I’, and to distinguish one thing from another, only because each thing has certain features. Whether it is a rock, a liquid, a person, a colour, a sound, a smell, a thought, a feeling or whatever, we recognise it as a thing and distinguish it from other things because of its features. Everything that we experience has features, except ‘I’. Therefore ‘I’ is like no other thing at all.

Though ‘I’ has no features that we could describe or grasp as a mental image, we do nevertheless experience ‘I’. That is, we experience something within us that experiences all other things and that we call ‘I’. This ‘I’ is not something other than ourself, but is what we actually are. In your email, how many times you used this word ‘I’ when referring to yourself, so how can you say that you do not experience ‘I’?

Meditation on anything other than ‘I’ is relatively gross, because it entails attending to some object: a word, an image, a thought, a feeling, a place in the body, or whatever. In comparison, meditation on ‘I’ is very subtle, because it entails not attending to any object but only attending to the subject: to the ‘I’ that experiences all objects (and that experiences not only the presence of objects, as in waking and dream, but also their absence, as in deep sleep).

Meditating on or attending to ‘I’ is subtly different to meditating on or attending to any object, because ‘I’ is not only featureless but also has no exact location. To give a crude and rather inadequate analogy, attending to ‘I’ is similar to observing the screen instead of observing any of the pictures that appear on the screen, because ‘I’ is the background awareness in which all other experiences appear and disappear. Therefore rather than describing it as meditating on or attending to ‘I’, you may find it easier to think of it as simply being aware of ‘I’, because that is all that meditating on or attending to ‘I’ actually means or entails.

We are always aware of ‘I’, but our awareness of ‘I’ is usually mixed with awareness of other things, so our aim should be to be aware only of ‘I’. This is why the practice is sometimes described as focussing attention exclusively on ‘I’. This is not meant to imply that ‘I’ is an object that we attend to, but only that we should be so keenly aware of ‘I’ that everything else is excluded from our awareness.

Sri Ramana described this subtle practice of mediating only on ‘I’ (or being aware only of ‘I’) as ātma-vicāra, which means self-investigation or self-examination, because though we clearly experience ‘I’, our power of attention has been rendered relatively gross by our long-ingrained habit of attending to objects, so it is not easy for us to clearly distinguish ‘I’ from the objects that we habitually mistake to be ‘I’, namely our body and mind. Therefore our attempt to attend only to ‘I’ is a process of vicāra or investigation: trying to investigate exactly what this ‘I’ is in order to clearly distinguish it from all other things — or in other words, to experience it in complete isolation from everything else.

The mind is said to have three qualities, one or two of which tend to dominate it at any given time: sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva means ‘being-ness’, which is the real nature of ‘I’ and the essential nature of the mind, so it is the background on which the other two qualities appear. If either or both of them predominate, sattva is obscured, but when they subside, sattva naturally shines forth and predominates.

Rajas is the quality of restlessness, activity, agitation and passion, whereas tamas is the quality of darkness, delusion, dullness, crudeness and selfishness. Generally these two qualities function together, but one usually dominates the other to a greater or less extent. Sri Ramana used to say that trying to attend to ‘I’ when rajas is predominating is like trying to see a small object at night by the light of a lamp flickering in the wind, and that trying to attend to ‘I’ when tamas is predominating is like trying to separate the fine threads of a silk cloth with the blunt end of a heavy crowbar.

Therefore, in order to attend only to ‘I’ (or to be aware only of ‘I’) our mind must be clear, calm and unagitated. However, in order to make our mind clear, calm and unagitated, it is not necessary for us to practise any other type of meditation, because the most effective means to make our mind clear, calm and unagitated is to try to attend only to ‘I’. Even if rajas or tamas impedes our efforts, the most effective way to overcome them is to persevere in trying to attend only to ‘I’.

Though our efforts to experience only ‘I’ may often be obstructed by the distracting influence of rajas (which manifests as thoughts) or the dulling influence of tamas (which manifests as sleepiness or lethargy), if we persevere in our efforts, we will gradually be able to experience ‘I’ with greater and greater clarity.

Therefore the only way to understand how to attend to or experience ‘I’ alone is to try to do so. The more you try, the more clear it will become to you what the terms ātma-vicāra, self-investigation, self-attentiveness or meditation upon ‘I’ actually mean. Just as one cannot learn how to ride a bicycle except by trying to ride one, we cannot learn how to attend to ‘I’ except by trying to do so.

In chapter 12 of Maha Yoga (2002 edition, page 202) Lakshmana Sarma records that Sri Ramana once said to someone who asked how to investigate who am I:
The way is subjective, not objective; so it cannot and need not be shown by another. Is it necessary to show anyone the way inside his own house? If the seeker keeps his mind still, that will be enough.
So long as we are attending to anything other than ‘I’, our mind is active, so the only way to keep it still (without falling asleep or into any other such state in which the mind subsides without clear self-awareness) is to attend only to ‘I’: in other words, to be aware of nothing other than ‘I’.

A similar reply is also recorded in section 486 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, and in section 435 of Talks it is recorded that when someone asked him how to concentrate on self, he replied: ‘If that is solved everything else is solved’.

That is, we must investigate ‘I’ by trying to concentrate our entire attention on it alone in order to find out how to concentrate on it: that is, how to experience ‘I’ alone, in complete isolation from everything else. If we find out how to experience it thus, we will experience it with perfect clarity, and thereby the illusion that we are a person — a body and mind — will be destroyed forever.

Therefore our aim is only to experience ‘I’ clearly by experiencing it in complete isolation from everything else, and we can learn how to experience it thus only by persistently trying to do so. This is all that the simple and clear practice of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation entails.


R Viswanathan said...

I wait for every Friday to read a new article from you, of course, every article being pertinent to realization of Self.

How to attend to 'I' is the question or difficulty (if one may say so) many aspirants have in their minds. You have explained so beautifully that we always experience 'I', but do not necessarily feel that we do experience it because we also attend to things other than 'I' through our senses.

It is pertinent here to quote the translation of Sadhu Om for Guru Vachaka Kovai verse 966: That which everyone experiences clearly within oneself as the feeling of existence (Atma or I am)is a form of grace of God.

Sadhu Om further explains that the feeling of 'I am' is the experience of everyone. Such a feeling exists in everyone due to compassion of God who exists in everyone as Atma.

investigation de soi said...

Thanks for this article.

I have a question:
When you said : Therefore our aim is to experience ‘I’ alone, in complete isolation from all other things, and in order to experience it thus, we need to try to be aware only of ‘I’ and thereby to ignore everything else.

It sounds simple and complicated at the same time ... Even if I say for who is it complicated?
Because when I try to do this, I have the feeling that my mind is trying to do this…. So is it normal that in first place the mind is a little involved or much involved… like said Ramana in Nan Yar?:
Only by [means of] the investigation who am I will the mind subside [settle down, become still, disappear or cease to be]; the thought who am I [that is, the desire to know who I am and the consequent effort one makes to scrutinise oneself], having destroyed all other thoughts, will itself in the end be destroyed like a corpse-burning stick [a stick that is used to stir a funeral pyre to ensure that the corpse is burnt entirely].

Again, even if I don't understand completely how to attend to "I", thanks for articles.


R Viswanathan said...

The question of Jacques Franck prompts me to give here my translation of Sri Sadhu Om's commentary (in Tamil) on Guruvachaka Kovai verse 899:

It is only by using the mind (the knowledge of objectivity in nature) that one needs to perform investigation of and find out 'what is the nature of the mind' or 'where from or how the mind rises', and this is the right path to turn Self-wards and abide in the Self.

Sri Sadhu Om further writes: It is the experience of Bhagavan that the mind will be annihilated only by turning Self-wards to seek to know its real nature (and not by resorting to any other kind of action). Investigating or meditating on anything else is not turning Self-wards. It is the practice of turning Self-wards (by the mind to seek to know the nature of the mind) is the path which will aid the immersion of the mind in the Self, and subsequently the destruction of the mind. It is also the path to realize the truth.

I also copy paste here the reply of Sri Michael James to my e-mail in which I sent him the above translation for his view on the correctness of my translation:

The mind is nourished and sustained by attending to anything other than 'I', but when it tries to attend to 'I' it subsides and disappears in it, so self-attentiveness is the only means by which we can abide as self.

This is the essence of Bhagavan's teachings, and the great secret that he has openly revealed to us.

Anonymous said...

If the mind is trying to do something, then it might ony be the beginning and according to Sri Ramana, real vichara begins when mental movements are absent and self attention alone remains. So, thoughts subsided, self enquiry is not an action and is non-dual. Thoughts will be kept on hold during this period and effect of vasanas will be rendered weak, though imperceptible.
As far the thought, 'Who am I?' is concerned, it is used only in the beginning to revert the attention back to self and represents the quest. What is meant in the essay, 'Nan Yar?' is that the quest itself dies finally. Who is left to enquire and what is there to enquire? Here, thoughts are not on hold but the root thought is snapped off (just like thread running through beads is cut), and they have nothing to associate with to give the impression the ego is independent of self.
Finally, in most cases, when someone is told to focus on 'I', there would be no much understanding (as you also say). Just try to keep away thoughts and be aware of what remains when thoughts are kept away. That's 'I', albeit in mixed form. That's enough to begin enquiry. When familiarity develops, a direct focus on 'I' can be effected without trying to keep away thoughts. It'll be found that thoughts will subside on their own accord. Repeated attempts will make 'I' clearer. That's non-dual, as means and end.

Anonymous said...

Edward, Jacques and others who can not find ‘I’:

Very rarely someone will be able to turn selfward completely (180 degrees, as Sri Sadhu Om would say), without any instructions. Very few can turn so with a simple instruction from someone permanently established in self. Some will resort to a long self enquiry, holding on to ‘I’. Similarly, some will be interested in enquiry but unable to hold on to ‘I’. The reason is they can not find ‘I’. I belong to this last category, just like Edward (who wrote to James), Jacques and hundreds of others. This can nevertheless be tackled and I just want to expand here what I wrote before.

There is a technique of ‘watching the breathing process’ [1, 2]. The basis for this is can be found and learnt from [3]. When the watch is kept up for a while, it would bring both thoughts and breath to a crawl and make them almost imperceptible. If continued from this point on, one would diverge into laya (trance). To get into enquiry, from this point onwards, the attention should be shifted to the thought-free awareness (that is‘I’), which should be easy to recognize at this point. Hence, it is ‘being aware of thought-free awareness’. That is enquiry. In due course, ‘watching the breath process’ can be safely abandoned and direct focus can be effected on pure awareness.

For a glimpse of how it feels like, one can read ‘Talks 609’, wherein it is said, “The incentive to realise can arise only in the waking state and efforts can also be made only when one is awake. We learn that the thoughts in the waking state form the obstacle to gaining the stillness of sleep. …Effort is required and it is possible in the waking state only. There is the effort here: there is awareness also; the thoughts are stilled; so there is the peace of sleep gained. …It is the state of perfect awareness and of perfect stillness combined. It lies between sleep and waking; it is also the interval between two successive thoughts. It is the source from which thoughts spring; we see that when we wake up from sleep. …Go to the root of the thoughts and you reach the stillness of sleep. But you reach it in the full vigour of search, that is, with perfect awareness.” That was the description from Sri Ramana, who always keeps things simple, clear and beautiful [I have a gut feeling Sri. M. Venkataramiah has faithfully recorded this. If in doubt refer to [4], which also says the same].

That is only temporary. Why it is temporary and what happens during enquiry and during repeated attempts of enquiry are what I said in my previous comment. Hope this helps for those who can not find, ‘I’.

[1] Maha Yoga, 2002 edition, p. 149.
[2] Sadhanai Saram, Chapter 42.
[3] Upadesa Undiyar, Verse 12.
[4] Sadhanai Saram, Chatper 47, Verses 263 & 264.


Anonymous said...

The above comment is helpful to me as I am one who has a difficult time with finding 'I' I have been meditating using a mantra for years. Maybe watching the breath would be something to focus on. Other wise I would just go to sleep. I guess I am looking for a formula or some kind of procedure. Thanks for the comment. Edward..

investigation de soi said...

Thanks all of you for yours comments. I have also found in Wednesday, 21 January 2009 What is self-attentiveness? :

Anonymous writes that ‘self-attentiveness involves our essential consciousness, is of it and within it’. This statement requires some clarification.

Our essential consciousness is eternally self-attentive, because it always experiences itself as ‘I am’ and there is nothing other than itself that it could be conscious of, but the consciousness that now makes effort to be self-attentive is only our mind and not our essential consciousness. Only when — by its effort to be self-attentive — our mind finally merges in our essential consciousness, will we clearly experience ourself as this essential consciousness.

We are always only this essential consciousness, even when we experience ourself as this mind, so when we make effort to be self-attentive, what we are actually attending to is only our essential consciousness. In this sense it is true to say that our effort to be self-attentive ‘involves our essential consciousness, is of it and within it’, but we should not mistake this to mean that our essential consciousness is making any effort.

The self-attentiveness that we experience with effort is a less than perfectly clear form of self-attentiveness, because it is not absolutely devoid of even the slightest trace of any thought or drowsiness, so we should not confuse such partial self-attentiveness with the transcendent experience of absolutely clear self-attentiveness, which is our natural state of pure thought-free self-consciousness. The former is a state of abhyāsa or practice, while the latter is the ultimate state of ārūḍha or attainment.

Though self-attentiveness is our natural state, in which we conscious of nothing other than our timeless self, so long as we continue to experience ourself as this mind, we have to make effort to be self-attentive. Since this effort is made only by our mind, which is a false time-bound form of consciousness, it is made within time. Therefore, though we will ultimately discover that self-attentiveness is timeless, so long as we have to make effort to be self-attentive, it is experienced within the limits of time.

Again thanks....

Steve said...

"There is truly no self other than ourself — our own ever-present and self-evident consciousness ‘I’ — so the self on which we are to focus is only ourself, the same self who is focusing on it." ~ Michael James

The mind is relentless in trying to analyze, complicate, and confuse. I have to be just as relentless in trying to maintain simplicity.

"The method is summed up in the words 'Be still'." ~ Sri Ramana

I can't be still while I am trying to find I, or worrying about which I is attending to which.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. If you are japa oriented, in 'Nan Yar' it is somewhere mentioned that even if one incessantly thinks 'I', 'I', it will lead to the source.

Reading the latest comment of yours, I gather that in a nutshell your argument is, 'Duality in practice; Non-duality in enlightenment'. You may recall (or read if you have not) Michael's post on Thursday, 27 November 2008 which analyzes such notion. Michael is more qualified to elaborate on that. However, I agree with Michael when he wrote in that post, "Though we certainly mistake ourself to be this false mind when we begin to practise ātma-vichāra, as soon as we actually focus our whole attention exclusively upon this false self, it subsides and disappears in its reality, and thus we discover that this seemingly false self was always nothing other than our one real self". This is 'seen' during every attempt.

I have a request. I very much look forward from you a detailed post on the fact that the practice of enquiry is non-dual, showing how the converse is false. I agree with GVK 579 that, "upēyamum tāṉē upāyamum tāṉē; abhēdamāk kāṇka avai" and Ulladu Narpadu Verse 33, as that is what is seen with every attempt of self-attention. I do not have the deep understanding like you to expand on this and hence the request.


Michael James said...

In a new article that I posted on this blog yesterday evening, The mind’s role in investigating ‘I’, I replied to Jacques Franck’s first comment and some of the other comments above, and in my next article I will discuss some of the other important issues raised in these comments.

Michael James said...

In another article that I posted on this blog today, Since we always experience ‘I’, we do not need to find ‘I’, but only need to experience it as it actually is, I have discussed some of the issues raised in the later comments above.

I hope that what I wrote about the need for us to familiarise ourself by trial and error with being self-attentive, just as when learning to ride an bicycle we need to familiarise ourself by trial and error with maintaining our balance while pedalling on two narrow wheels, may be helpful to Edward and may serve as a satisfactory reply to his remark in his comment of 18 May 2014 13:14: ‘I guess I am looking for a formula or some kind of procedure’. Just as there is no formula or procedure to learn to ride a bicycle other than trial and error and patient practice, so there is no formula or procedure to learn to be self-attentive other than trial and error and patient practice.

Palani said...

Dear Michael: Frustration, frustration and Headache and pain. I think the process of paying attention to I seems as if a big strain, may be because it is so simple the I-feeling that it is overlooked and the mind makes it complicated. I don't know what to do.

In one of the notes from Sadhu Om book, the read that:

sadhana is not doing, but being! If sadhana is just being, then paying attention to "I feeling" isn't that an action.

For example, when I write an e-mail and then send it, there is a few moment, where I will fully turn my attention from laptop to my sense of self and stay there, or after I drink water, the immediate moment I turn attention away from glass, close my eyes and pay attention to sense of self. Now when he says sadhana is "being", am little confused, because for me personally it looks like an action and more I turn my attention to sense of self, I feel sever headache afterward or sometimes while doing that I have no other way than to stop it. It worries me a lot that I'm not able to attend to I which is so simple because that is what I'm.

Palani said...

Dear Michael James, Is being completely present to what is there is same like attending to "I" ?

Michael James said...

Palaniappan, I have written a reply to your latest comment above in a separate article, We must experience what is, not what merely seems to be, which I have posted here today.

Michael James said...

Palaniappan, regarding your previous comment, self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is not an activity but a cessation of all activity. Though turning our attention back towards ‘I’ may seem to be an action, it is actually just refraining from directing our attention away from ourself, its source.

Directing our attention towards anything other than ‘I’ is an activity, because it entails our attention moving away from ourself towards something else, whereas attending only to ‘I’ is not an activity, because it entails no movement of our attention away from ourself. It is therefore our natural state, in which our attention or awareness rests calmly in its source (which is ourself, ‘I’) without doing anything whatsoever.

If you experience a headache or any kind of strain when trying to practise self-attentiveness, the actual cause of that is not self-attentiveness itself but the resistance that the mind makes to being self-attentive. Since the mind lives and thrives on activity — that is, on attending to anything other than ‘I’ — it will try to do all that it can to resist being self-attentive, because self-attentiveness is a threat to its very existence.

By being self-attentive we are trying to experience ourself as we really are, and if we succeed in experiencing ourself as we really are, we will cease to experience our body or mind as ‘I’, and hence our mind will be destroyed, since what it essentially is is just the illusory experience ‘I am this body’.

That is, our mind rises and is active only when we experience ourself as a body, as in waking and dream, and it subsides and disappears whenever we do not experience any body as ‘I’, as in sleep. Therefore our mind is a mistaken experience of what we actually are, so as soon as we experience ourself as we actually are, our mind will be destroyed, just as an illusory snake will be destroyed as soon as we see that it is only a rope.

This is why self-investigation is a threat to the very existence of our mind, and since our mind instinctively knows this, it will always try to distract our attention away from ourself. Therefore if we try very hard to attend only to ‘I’, the resistance put up by our mind will sometimes create tension, which may result in a headache. In such circumstances it is best to relax our effort for a while, spending a while just reading or thinking about Bhagavan’s teachings (as I suggested in another reply that I wrote to you earlier today), and then to resume our effort when we feel fresh enthusiasm to try to experience ‘I’ alone.

Palani said...

Thanks Michael. When I spoke with few others (like Alan Jacobs, Richard and couple of them at Ashram) recently on the same subject of comment, like you mentioned they also said that your mind is too 'willful' and 'too resistance' to let go.

And knowing my personality nature, it is true. I'm too willful person and too hard on myself, perfectionist and not easily let go off things. Think that is why my mind is resisting and having let the mind to thrive on too much thinking, reading, inner talking, suddenly turning attention to itself, immediately bounces back with little 'friction' or 'tension' causing pain on neck and headache. I remember you telling in one video that, when you feel the pain it means the attention had turned to body from I'm. True, but at the same time it seems natural for the mind to pay attention to the pain and trying to bring back and forth the "I" during the pain, increases its dosage.

Sometimes, I feel like may be self attention is not for me and go back to japa chanting and prayer until the mind relaxes. But then other part of the same mind says, you are not even trying what Bhagavan instructed. As you said, a clear balance is needed, too much of hard stand on bringing the mind to itself can only drain you and end up not having love for "Iam"

Michael James said...

Palaniappan, Bhagavan used to say that ātma-vicāra should be a gentle process, like trying to tempt a runaway cow with some fresh green grass and thereby leading it gently back to its stall. It should not be forceful, like running after the cow with a stick and thereby trying to chase it back to its stall.

We know that our mind likes to run away from ourself towards other things, so we have to gently coax it back to ourself without applying undue force. We should try to be self-attentive as much as possible, but rather than trying constantly for a long period of time, which can create tension, making many brief attempts is generally more effective.

Whenever we are not attending to ‘I’, rather than engaging in any other practice such as japa (which will only help to take our mind away from ourself) it is more beneficial to keep our mind dwelling on Bhagavan’s teachings by reading (śravaṇa) and reflection (manana), because that will encourage us to keep on trying to attend to ‘I’ alone.

Palani said...

Thanks Michael. Initially when I started vichara it used to be so heady type. But then understood, as you say, it is a gentle and relaxed attention (not so relaxed but wit alertness also). I think the more forceful we try, it becomes painful and leads to frustration and also trying to do fiercly concentrate for long time. So yes as you had mentioned Michael, it is very important for people who practice to understand and remember that it is:

1. A gentle, relaxed and alert attention of oneself. It is better to relax the body and take some 2-3 deep breathes before one starts every time during the day. Not necessary, but it helped me little. Because if I had to fiercely concentrate, my body would become stiff and not when the body is loosened and then with little deep breath, the mind loosened, the quality of attention on oneself become easy and relaxed.

I keep asking myself, what is there to be tensed and fierce to be just being you? What is there to get anxious or worry in just being you?

2. Very important tip that you mentioned Michael, not to concentrate too long at least to start with. Small small moments during the day for few minutes and in those few minutes also there will be multiple break up of attention and will be only partial. If we have to do long, it is better to do early morning and sit exclusive and do it. Patience is key and so is perseverance.

3. And not to judge oneself that we are not able to properly, perfectly. The more we judge ourselves that we are not able to do and pay attention and feel as if we are not qualified for it, it demotivates and during that time the only motivation factor is pray to Ramana and remember his words "All will come well in the end, just don't give up"

4. I remember reading one of your chapters in the book Michael which says "loving" attention. It should not be a dry attention, but need to cultivate the love for it and love for practice. I read somewhere which said, we all love watching movies. No one tries hard to watch a movie, concentrates and takes effort to watch a movie. When they enter the cinema hall, effortlessly we withdraw attention from everything, the outside world, the problems of our life, the future plans, even we forget our body feeling. Our entire attention falls effortlessly to the movie screen that we forget ourselves. So relaxing, enjoying and when we come out so relaxed. The same has to be there for being ourselves but think that state will come with practice and showing interest in ourselves. May be we feel being ourselves is boring as there is nothing spicy or interesting.

Thanks again Michael.

Unknown said...

Hi Michael,

One question regarding this...when I am not concentrating on any object (bringing my attention back) and am just aware ,am I ' focused in the self' ..?

Michael James said...

Rajeev, what do you mean by ‘just aware’? Just aware of what? If we are aware of anything other than ourself, we are not ‘focused in the self’, or at least not entirely focused in ourself.

We are always aware of ourself, whether or not we happen to be also aware of anything else. However, so long as we are aware of anything other than ourself, we are not aware of ourself as we really are, because according to Bhagavan nothing other than what we really are actually exists. Therefore we become aware of other things only when we are aware of ourself as this ego, which is not what we really are, and hence we need to give up being aware of anything else.

However, giving up being aware of anything else is not sufficient, because in sleep we are not aware of anything else, yet we do not experience ourself as we really are, and hence we sooner or later wake up from sleep and again experience ourself as this ego. In sleep we are aware of nothing other than ourself, but we are not attentively aware of ourself alone.

Therefore we not only need to give up being aware of anything else, but also need to be attentively aware of ourself. This is what Bhagavan indicated in verse 16 of Upadēśa Undiyār, which I discussed in detail in the seventh section of my latest article, Dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka: distinguishing the seer from the seen. In that verse வெளி விடயங்களை விட்டு (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷai viṭṭu) or दृश्य वारितम् (dṛśya vāritam) means giving up being aware of anything other than ourself, and மனம் தன் ஒளி உரு ஓர்தலே (maṉam taṉ oḷi-uru ōrdalē: the mind knowing its own form of light) or चित्तम् आत्मनः चित्त्व दर्शनम् (cittam ātmanaḥ cittva darśanam: the mind seeing its own awareness) means being attentively self-aware (which I believe is what you meant by being ‘focused in the self’).

Unknown said...

Hi MIchael,

Sorry for the late response. I tracked my post for a little while, then gave up thinking you may have some other work given the multitude of posts on this forum or were not able to see my post. However I see that you returned my post in a few days only, hence I might have been mistaken.

Thanks for your answer. What I meant by being aware is just aware that ' I am' in the strictest sense, and as you mention in some other places, it's not focus or concentration on the ' I am' like we concentrate on objects. It is just removing all objects and just being and yet watchful that no other thought, etc. comes in to pull me out.
I find it much easier to do this when I immediately wake up than in the day or the evening when Rajas makes its presence felt. If I sometimes lose attention, and try to see which part of the body, it is coming from, I see it coming from the face side.

I was also wondering if you had some time for a Skype discussion.


Michael James said...

Rajeev, yes, I do sometimes talk with friends on Skype, so if you would like to discuss anything with me via Skype please email me so that we can arrange a mutually convenient time.

Aham Asmi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ram said...

Dear Michael Sir, I carry out self-investigation continuously, trying to dwell in self-awareness both while performing my day-to-day chores and while sitting at least for a couple of hours daily of formal seated practice with my eyes either open or closed. When I sit with my eyes closed I soon reach a state of intense peace and quiet where I can no longer carry out self-investigation voluntarily. It seems to be a kind of trance/samadhi that lasts for some time and I am quite sure in hindsight that my mind completely subsides in this interval. Once out of it, I again start the process. Also, in the midst of my daily work or even in seated practice with eyes open I tend to only be resting in self-awareness and silence without any knowledge of what is happening around me. It is almost like a state of sleepwalking where all activities happen on auto-pilot mode. My question is whether self-investigation in deeper stages leads to this kind of an 'experience' or is there something that I am not following correctly in my practice of self-investigation as taught by Bhagavan.

Would be grateful for your insights that would guide me on to the correct path.

K. Ramakrishnan