I see again and again in the media how we put up a tremendous fight to be ‘alive’ and see death as an awful and dark enemy that will ‘kill’ us or leave us in a fearful darkness.

Yet the thing I find amazing about this is that every night when we sleep we enter that darkness of dreamless sleep, and we survive it again and again. I also see again and again that when we start to become aware of that unknown in us we feel it will possess us or destroy us in some way. See Reaction to the unconscious

We identify ourselves as our body and we feel that if our body has been hurt in dreams it means death or something even worse. We feel because we are taught that we are simply our genes, and are an accident and are made by material forces, that we are finished if our body is destroyed. Yet we are creatures of life and that is a miraculous thing arising out of cosmic forces that we are only at the beginning of understanding. Older cultures who were much more experiences in the life and death saw otherwise.

Example: I’d had a dream. I was in bed, and my wife was next to me, and this thing crawled up to me and it was going to get me, and, as usual, when horrible things happen I fight back, so I got hold of its belly and shouted “I will control you” and of course my wife woke me up at that moment. I imagined that the thing did come up to me, and I couldn’t breathe, I suffered asthma for the first time in my life, it was death. I thought, I want to know the truth about death. So I let this thing get hold of me, and once it touches you it spreads, like death does. And so I had this sure feeling: I’m ready to meet whatever it brings. And so it was like this thing impacted on me, and that was the fear, and the struggle to breathe, and then it was gone. And I thought, hold on that was too quick. I don’t understand what happened. So I went through it again. And this time, as it passed through, I met it and I realized, I am not this body. I am life. Life itself lives in me. I am life, not Tony, not the personality. I am life. That robbed me of the fear and difficulty to breathe.

After that, I realised I had seen something so wonderful, I began to identify with this consciousness, with life. It didn’t stay at that level but I suppose I swung my identification over. I felt like I could lose an arm or a leg and it didn’t matter, I’m still here. It was a developing thing: I call it “Living as if”. Of course I’m still the same old me with all these fears but I began to shift my identification. I would say to myself “Oh come on, what are you talking about? This body is you? What are you talking about? This body is always changing. I didn’t have the feeling I was going to exist as embodied consciousness, I was pure consciousness. I had met the darkness that so many of us are frightened of and passed through it.

Example: In 1953, when I was sixteen, and already deeply interested in the possibilities of the human mind, I took a course in deep relaxation. I practiced every day for three months, tensing my muscles, relaxing them, then passing my awareness over and over my body, dropping the feeling of tension. After three months I was quite proficient. One evening, after coming home from dining out with friends, I went to bed thinking I would leave my usual practice, but in the end decided to practice even though it was late.

After going over my body several times I suddenly lost my right arm. I had no sensation of it other than space, hugeness. Then I lost my left arm, and then my whole body. It was like falling through a trap-door into space. I had no sense of having a body. Thoughts had ceased, except for a murmur apparently a thousand miles away. Yet in blackness, in immensity, in absence of thought I existed vitally as bodiless awareness. We think that we are our body because we have no other experience of our existence. So we identify with our body and so are terrified of dying – which in a sense is what we do every time we go to sleep and leave our sense of a body behind.

After that day I could repeat the experience almost any time I sat down and used the relaxation technique. I felt at the time, and still believe it correct, that I had fallen asleep yet remained awake. Waking, critical awareness, had been taken through the magic doors of sleep into a universe it seldom ever sees – deep dreamless sleep. I realised that as we enter sleep all our sense are switched off and we are fundamentally bodiless awareness. See Levels of Awareness

I realise that what I describe must seem like a strange and even imaginary world to many people – except that it isn’t. But many people do not give three months of their life in everyday practice at the age of 16 to break through the barriers of our physical senses and maintain awareness in the deeps of sleep.

So what is life?

Life is the most precious thing – in fact a holy and divine thing; not because the church or religious organisations say so, but because it is miraculous and beyond us to understand. I am not talking about the personal consciousness, the person or personality that craves death so much they commit suicide. Such people have unfortunately been raised in a way to that they are conscious of the lie that they exist as separate from the awareness of LIFE as it continuous to pump their heart, and tries to continue its process. I know this because I too wanted death as a way out.  Yet I found a way back to knowing LIFE.

I said Life is holy, and I mean all life, for we have all evolved from the primitive slime that we still go back to to procreate – the seeds and the eggs we ejaculate when having sex. As human beings we will obviously either evolve into another life form or pass away as all life forms do. It doesn’t matter as long as a life form manages to survive – for it was plants and insects that took the the land before invertebrates – and it was from such beginnings that any life can carry on – for life has been completely wiped out before, and yet here we are. Life is a living, sentient, learning super organism. “For in each atom, in each corpuscle, is life. Life is that you worship as God.”

Well, you are life because you are a living example of it. But of course you are mostly unconscious of what you are. That is because self consciousness is very new on our planet, so it is still in its infancy and is very vulnerable. Look around you at the number of people who need alcohol, street drugs, medical drugs, rigid belief systems to enable them to cope with life – and off course all of those who are mentally ill or need antidepressants. So although you are the answer to the question what is life – we cover it up with so much thinking and opinions. As R.D. Laing said in his book Politics of Experience “The truth I am trying to grasp is the grasp that is trying to grasp it. The Life I am trying to grasp is the me that is trying to grasp it.”

In every age, every ancient culture, people have tried to answer the questions what am I? What am I capable of? Where did I come from and why? Also they have often tried to climb out of the hell their life has become.

Ramana Maharshi, product of an older culture experienced in exploring such questions as ‘who am I’ or “How can I find peace?” said that, “When you realise the Core Self (enlightenment), the sense of yourself as distinct from the world disappears”. He gives a fuller description of this, “When the mind identifies the self with the not-self/the body, there is bondage; when this wrong identification is removed through the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ there is release” peace.

Thus, Self-enquiry is the direct path taught by Bhagavan Ramana. “The ‘I’-experience is common to all. Of all thoughts, the ‘I’-thought is the first to arise. What one has to do is to enquire into the source of the ‘I’-thought. This is the reverse process of what ordinarily happens in the life of the mind. The mind enquiries into the constitution and source of everything else which, on examination, will be found to be its own projection; it does not reflect on itself and trace itself to its source. Self-discovery can be achieved by giving the mind an inward turn. This is not to be confused with the introspection of which the psychologists speak. Self-enquiry is not the mind’s inspection of its own contents; it is tracing the mind’s first mode, the ‘I’-thought to its source which is the Self. When there is proper and persistent enquiry, the ‘I’-thought also ceases and there is the wordless illumination of the form ‘I’-‘I’ which is the pure consciousness. This is release, freedom from bondage. The method by which this is accomplished, as has been shown, is enquiry which, in Vedanta, is termed jnana, knowledge. You sit and ask yourself, “Who am I”? See Enlightenment Intensive

That may read as very high flown, yet in practise it is very simple and brings results as the following illustrates.

‘I was sitting opposite someone during an enlightenment intensive workshop. We had been posing the question for days – “Who are you?” Suddenly I realised that it was a silly question, because I was the answer. All thought then stopped and I existed as the answer. My being had always been this. In this state there was an awareness of being connected with everything around me, in the beginning of Creation. This was the First Day, in which we all exist but are usually unaware of.’

To me that is the simple answer to who we are. All the rest is a way of avoiding doing the work of self enquiry. See Self Observation  I Don’t Believe in God – I Know God.

But the other side of life is living it

Living it is a different kettle of fish than knowing who you are. At this level we can say ‘What is Life’ and define it differently.

If we are living our life we have to recognise that we live in an animal body. Yes – you cannot deny it; you have mouth eyes, ears, nipples, and genitals all in the same sort of place as other mammals. Also, even more important for the living of your life you have all the drives, urges, fears and wonders of other animals. You are plagued or delighted with the urge to procreate (sex), we fight and kill each other exactly as or even worse than our older brothers and sisters the animals; we struggle to survive and even want to be leader of the pack and in doing so grab the biggest bunch of bananas, the most delicious mate or mates – and often want to rule and keep it all for ourselves. The strongest, underhanded, or trickiest tend to get to the top of the heap.

Yes we are animals, unfortunately lacking some of the good points of our forebears the apes. But we ride a very ancient beast – our body – that has lived through the whole development from single cells to our own complex body. So in beginning to consider our emergence it is now known that in the womb we start off at the very primitive level of cellular production. Then our forming body goes through a fish stage and has gills. Slowly it moves toward an air breathing body. And all these evolutionary changes leave their mark, for we have at least four levels of brain – the spinal – the reptilian – the mammalian and then the human.

In living the life of the human animal there are several paths we can take. We can spent our life fucking each other in an amazing variety of ways, and for those on this path it seems to them sex is the be all and end all of life.

Then there is the path of eating, and this too can be a ‘consuming’ passion. We can see it all around us in overweight people, men who look enormously pregnant, or women who are eating their way to what?

The path of the lover is also for many of us what life means – though there is so much pain in it from reports seen in the media and songs sung and theatre produced. And where is the evidence from our romantic societies for good relationships? Many that start with such passionate ‘love’ soon end in divorce. Even so love exists especially for parents and their children.

The song and speaking begins to show signs of lasting – but it depends from what condition the song or words arise from.

The mind with its amazing possibilities and often untapped depths is the source of much good and evil in society. Imagination is an extraordinary and often creative possibility, but even so our society is so much in a mess – the huge gap between the have and the have nots; the awful situations in health care in many nations; the enormous loss of talent through being unable to afford education; the lack of appreciation that mothers and babies are the miracle of life.

In considering these things we must remember that life itself is an enormous paradox, and is the action of tremendous duality that needs to be met if we are to be fulfilled in living our life. Life and death – health and disease – male and female – rich and poor – sleeping and waking – consciousness and unconsciousness; all are signs of the tremendous duality and paradoxes we meet.

We also live in a super organism that need recognising to be able to deal with it. We exist within something that is itself a huge living being. The Aborigines and Indians weren’t specialists in the way modern humans are specialists. You and I are no longer self sufficient. We were born within this super organism, and we have a symbiotic relationship with it. It is a living creature in its own right. Just as the cells are almost totally dependent on the magical factor that keeps them all working as a co-operating unity, so we are also dependent on the MAGIC of co-operation.

Take someone like the President of the USA. If we place him in a desert alone like an old aborigine, without any modern equipment, he might soon die. If the president had lived within an Aboriginal community he might have become an elder within the tribe. But because of the super-organism in which he was raised and lives, he has a much greater connection with numbers of people. In fact, the present President or Prime Minister is a totally different being because the super organism in which he exists has developed enormous technological aids in extending himself – he/she is super augmented. Compared with the Aborigine group, president has god like powers to extend himself. If the president landed in ancient Mexico in his private jet they would hail him as a god. The president can appear to millions of people at the same moment and speak to them; he can travel to any part of the world; his thoughts and words have great influence; his decisions are augmented not only by himself, but also by a huge network of other human beings all over the world. His image, his words, his deeds are all recorded and will exist as an influence long after he is dead physically.

You are part of the super organism. Do you make your own clothes, grow all of your food, provide your entertainment, and what transport you and who provides the electricity for your home? You are a cell in an enormous body – the super organism – and without it you probably could not survive. In today’s world we are all moving toward becoming super augmented.

But exist we do, or try to do. We have done for a long time, and probably will continue. But perhaps in recognising our situation we might make it easier or more pleasant.

We need not avoid sex, eating, loving or creating, but we need to balance our way of life. The animal in us drives us to have sex, eat and love – it is nature. But there is a middle path which we can take care of all these needs but proportionately, not just one only at the expense of others. As a human we can do this.

A way has been outlined for thousands of years – obviously with slight differences – but it exists. In fact it is part of our own life process. If you think about it you make no effort to grow your own infant body, and the process of growth is one of the most powerful forces in us. We may have put a lot of effort into getting educated or work but overall the life process and the power of growth in a sense washed us up on a beach – the beach of human awareness and our life. But for us to grow more and transform some of the drives and human pains we meet, we need to learn that we can use the power of growth to transform.

It isn’t an enormous thing, just a redirecting of some of our energetic living. Most of our energy or interest is directed into the everyday sorts of things we get up to. If we simply give a small amount if time to listen to our own life process, it can become a wonderful adventure of growth and transformation.

Here is a simple way of doing it. Sit down where you will not be disturbed for at least twenty minutes. If you want to do it with a partner or friends it is okay as long as they have a similar aim. When you are ready be aware of your body and let go of any tensions you notice, as you do this take several long slow deep breaths. Now imagine you are standing before a beautiful big door that is closed. If you are having a clear picture of the door is not easy, simply get the feeling of the door. On the door there are large letter L-I-F-E.

Yes you are standing before the door of Life, the life that continues to beat your heart; the life you see in all the creatures around you; the life that has taken the form of the millions of creatures on our planet and the life that has fantastic potential. When you are ready open the door to Life, the life that is all of your urges and abilities, you sex, your hunger, your love, your voice and you mind.

You have opened the door to all of them and without any attempt to express or direct in any way wait. Wait without any aim, for an aim is a direction, and you are waiting for the new growth, the unknown to come to you. It can come in any way, a movement, an emotion, a sound that you make, or even a vision – a waking dream.

When Life touches you in this way it will be something new that you had not experienced or known before – for Life is extraordinarily creative. And do this at least three times a week. See Opening to Life

After doing it for a week walk through open door into the power of Life. And remember that Life is everything, and to meet it you must be ready to meet all you are, for you are Life. And Life is also Death. It is an animal as well as a human. It is both male and female is what you know as yourself, as well as the huge unknown that you are.

See Letting things HappenLife’s Little SecretsJesse Watkins Enlightenment – Inner World

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved