YOU ARE NOT BROKEN
Episode 8: "Let come what comes, let go what goes, see what remains." In this episode we use Ramana Maharshi's sage advice to explore our most essential nature and consider how we may already be free, whole, and perfect without even noticing it.
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Let come what comes, let go what goes and see what remains.
Welcome to this perfect moment, a podcast dedicated to helping you use ancient wisdom to unlock your life of radical happiness, connection and meaning right here, right now. I'm your host Eric Walrabenstein, and I'm glad you're here.
I used to think that I was broken. Somehow, somewhere along the line I had come to believe that I didn't measure up. I struggled with traumatic stress that seeped into every corner of my life and for a long time I felt like I was an outsider peering through the window at everyone else's successful life.
And they told me this was okay. They told me that everyone was broken in some way. They told me that in our brokenness we could actually become stronger if we used it.
Limiting beliefs like the ones that chide you'll never make it, or the ones that say you're not good enough, or the ones that try to convince you that you don't matter. "These could all be rewritten and leave us stronger," they said.
The deep wounds and traumas from the past, from things like abuse or neglect or worse, "these could be healed and make us more resilient," they said.
And even the damage from the ever-increasing pressures and stresses and overwhelm of daily life could be neutralized and actually leave us better off, they said.
And a part of me found hope and solace in this, but I'll also admit to feeling overwhelmed and to some degree, doubtful. Healing in this way sounded like a lot of work, a monumental and crushing amount of work. And it left me wondering if I could do it, if I'd ever really be free.
And that all changed when I was told perhaps the most important thing of all. You see it was true, there was indeed brokenness and on a number of fronts, but what they had never told me, and what I finally learned was that the thing that was broken, well, it wasn't me at all.
Here's the truth. No one is broken, not a one of us. And that's even true of those who clearly appear to be the most broken of all. The quote I shared at the beginning of the episode contains a hint to why this is true. "Let come what comes, let go what goes and see what remains." See what remains.
These are the words of Ramana Maharshi, and this was one of his prime instructions to help his students stumble upon the reality of who they were beyond the brokenness.
Here's what I mean. Imagine yourself sitting on a beautiful white sand beach. You're relaxing under an umbrella, gazing over the glassy-still seascape, and way out in the distance, right where the sky meets the horizon, a gleaming white cruise ship begins to peak up from where the sky meets the sea. You watch the ship as it fully appears and then steams along from left to right, and then after 20 minutes or so, the cruise ship begins to slowly dip behind the horizon until it is once again out of sight.
Now, here's the question, and I'll warn you, it's a little strange, but stick with me because it illustrates a crucial point.
First, I'm going to ask you to forget everything you've ever known or have come to believe about who you are. Forget your name, forget your age, forget your gender, your history, forget even that you're a human with a body. And in this thick cloud of forgetting, where you have suspended all knowledge of who or what you are completely, answer this question: of all of the things in the universe that you could possibly be, how do you know, sitting there on that beach, definitively that you are not the cruise ship?
Now be careful-don't lose that cloud of forgetting because if you say, "Well, it's obvious that I'm not a cruise ship," then I'd ask "in what way is it obvious? What is your evidence?"
And if you say "it's preposterous that I could be a cruise ship", then I'd argue you're leaning on some knowledge or beliefs that you haven't quite fully suspended.
So again, forget everything you've come to know or believe about who or what you are. And from there, from that place of unknowing, how do you know you're not the cruise ship?
I'll give you just a moment to contemplate before sharing the answer.
So, here it is. The reason you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not that cruise ship, even without any prior knowledge, memory, or belief about what you might possibly be, the reason you know you're not that is this:
You were there before the cruise ship arose.
You were there while the cruise ship was there.
And you were there after the cruise ship was gone.
Translation: if you were there and the cruise ship was not, then the cruise ship cannot be you.
To paraphrase another of Ramana Maharshi's teachings, "If it comes and goes, it's not you."
So, who cares? And why is this important? Well, it's because this exercise is not really about helping you to see that you're not a cruise ship and I'm hoping you're already well aware of that. Rather it's to see clearly that if anything comes and goes, it's not you. It simply can't be.
It might help to remind ourselves that our experience is made up only of six things: things seen, things heard, things felt, things smelled, things tasted, and things thought.
Now I'm fully aware that in our day to day lives, it doesn't necessarily seem like things are that simple with all the dramas and challenges and wonder and excitement of life, but when we look closely and honestly, we'll see that everything, everything you've ever experienced is some sort of an amalgam or construct created only from these six things. Emotions are things felt. Beliefs are things thought. Preferences are thought and felt. Your identity is composed of thoughts and even your so-called intuition is simply something that is felt.
The truth is there is nothing, and I offer this for your consideration, not your belief, that you ever experienced outside of these six categories--and all of these things come and go.
We've all had moments of an experience where nothing is seen. We've all had moments of an experience of nothing being heard. And we've all had moments of an experience of nothing being felt or tasted or smelled. And while they may be fleeting moments, sometimes maybe only like the blink of an eye, we've also had brief moments of nothing being thought.
Now I invite you to contemplate this deeply because it's important, because if you are aware of something's absence, it means it cannot be you and because you have been aware at one time or another of the absence of all of these things, none of them can be you.
And this is proof that you are not the body which is felt and seen, and you're not the mind which is thought and felt, and you are not the story you've come to tell yourself you are.
You are something else, but what?
The fact is there is a part of you that is always already free of any brokenness. It's always already free of any drama, of any pain, of any stress. In fact, it's always already free from everything.
Some traditions would call this thing your spirit or your soul, though I prefer to call it your awareness. That is to say the most essential part of you, the entity that is aware.
Now before you go off running around looking for it or asking if this is such an essential part of me, how come I can't see it? I'll ask you to simply pause and look. Right now, are you aware of the sound of my voice? And right now, are you aware of thoughts in your mind? And right now, are you aware of sensations in your body?
The truth is right now you are aware and always have been, so there's no need to be looking for it. In fact, the more that we look for it, the more elusive it can seem. It's a little bit like looking around the room for your eyeballs. In the words of another great master, Saint Francis of Assisi, "What you are seeking is what is seeking."
Now I said that the awareness is an entity and that's probably not the best descriptor. Your awareness is more like an aware space. If you look down at your hand, you'll see right now that your hand is inside your awareness. It's in your awareness. In the same way that my voice is in your awareness.
So, this awareness is the space for the experience of this body. And years ago, it was the space for the experience of a different body. If I go back half a century or so, in my awareness was a cute little blonde boy. A blonde boy that I, at the time, called me.
But here's the scientific fact, not one single cell molecule or atom from that boy is here in this body today. All of his thoughts are different, his beliefs are different, his emotions are different. Nothing here is left of him and yet I continue to tell myself that that was me and this here today is me when they are completely different entities. It defies logic really, but it's something that we all do.
But if we slow down enough to really get clear, we'll see that the only thing that remains, the only commonality in the experience of that little boy and the experience of this body mind now is my awareness, my sense of I that witnesses, but is not the little boy or the grizzled old one speaking to you now.
Again, to Ramana Maharshi's words: "Let come what comes... (thoughts, feelings, images, sounds, smells, tastes), let go what goes (thoughts, feelings, images, sounds, smells, tastes) and see what remains."
When we look we will see that what remains is awareness, the witness, the watcher, the real you.
It's all lie after lie after lie.
You were not anxious because anxiousness comes and goes. You are aware of the feelings you have come to call anxiety. Similarly, you are not worried because worry comes and goes. You are simply aware of the thoughts and feelings you have learned to call worry. And you are not traumatic memories as memories, too, come and go. Rather you are simply aware of the arising of the memories as you are aware of their passing.
You are aware. You are awareness.
Now this thing that you are, this thing we're calling awareness, is really quite remarkable. As I said, it's less of a thing or an entity and more of a space, an aware space. It has no shape but it is ready to contain any shape. It has no color for it is pure readiness to reflect any color. And it has no sound for it is the clear open space that is ready to allow any sound.
We might think of awareness, we might think of ourselves as a kind of blank canvas-or maybe better- a movie screen. A screen where the movie of your life is projected. And like a movie screen, it can never be permanently damaged or broken by what is projected upon it.
While it may be true the screen can reflect images of blood and bedlam of the latest horror movie, but then in the next showing it is also perfectly free from those images and ready to reflect When Harry Met Sally or some other romantic comedy and so it goes with you-with awareness.
You are the space in which your life arises and within that space can arise the greatest of dramas, but once the drama has passed, your awareness-ness is free and ready for laughter and joy.
Never are you, never is awareness, stained or broken by anything that arises within it.
I mean think of the worst pain you had in your life. For me, it was a wrestling match with a nasty kidney stone. Brutal, agonizing pain that had me writhing and quite literally banging my head against the side of the hospital gurney.
At the time the pain was all consuming. My whole being seemed to be filled by, no, it seemed to be nothing but pain. And now? Gone. No evidence of it whatsoever. Just a little story in my mind that exists to remind me to drink more water.
You see, this is what we miss. We are already free. Right here, right now. And this single realization is the thing that can change everything for us.
Now, none of this is to suggest that the brokenness doesn't matter or that it doesn't exist or that it doesn't have an effect because it does. The thoughts and memories, the emotions and reactions, they are real. They do matter and too, they can be healed and transformed, but no matter what state of healing or transformation they may exist in, we need to be clear--they are not you.
This may seem like a small distinction or even a game of semantics. What difference does it make if I believe myself to be my thoughts? Or if I believe myself to be my emotions, my worries or my anxieties? I mean whether I believe myself to be them or I don't, I'm still experiencing them, so what does it matter, really?
Well, it's a fair point, but this is what is also true. I know in my experience, this seemingly small distinction has changed everything and to be clear, when I say distinction, I'm not suggesting a mere mental shift, but rather an experiential one. A shift that is created by a curious investigation into this thing we call "I" this thing we call "awareness".
Because the truth is when I was able to see that I was simultaneously experiencing emotion and at the very same time, free of that emotion. It let me move from the experience of I am anxious to the experience of I am aware of the sensations of anxiety; from I am stressed to I am aware of the sensations of stress and from I am impatient to hey look, the sensations of impatience are paying a visit. It was a kind of objectivity that gave me room to breathe, room to maneuver, room to heal the brokenness that I never was.
So, it's here that the invitation becomes to let come what comes, like the afternoon thunderclouds rolling in over the horizon and let go what goes, like the big old burnt orange sun dipping below the evening's horizon and see what remains: the spacious sky-like awareness, your pure capacity for the beauty and the wonder of life.
Well that's all the time we have for today and as always, I so appreciate you for listening. Keep your comments and questions coming by dropping me a note from my website at ericwall.com.
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Thanks again and remember, I'm grateful for you. So, if there's anything I can do, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
I'm wishing you a fabulous week and I'll see you next time.