Note to reader: Back in 2008, I was introduced to Gary through my friends Chad and Isaac. I loved his simple, yet powerful book From Here to Here which was a gift that's never left my bookshelf. Conscious Awakening is his latest work.
For nearly 50 years, I've building on a concept of self. It's imaginary. It's conceptual. It's not real. What's real? Experience. Life. Action.
Ideas are not real, and my identity is nothing more than an idea... an idea I have, and an idea other have of me. But's it's not actually a thing any more than the character in a movie or a song on the radio.
I am the vehicle upon which all experience occurs.
Why did I create this concept and how come I've let it dominate my thinking? Because the self satisfies the ego. The ego needs the concept of a self to express itself.
This is a concept I continually come back to. I've always known that truth is limited to that which is 100% objective. But given the misbeliefs that filter our experience of the world, will we ever see ourselves objectively?
My views are biased towards reinforcing my beliefs (true or false). In fact, I seek evidence to validate my beliefs. The more I do, the more I secure this false sense of 'me.'
Something I want to do for Gary is give him a webpage where the reader can insert their name and have it added to the script he provides (the sample he uses is 'sam' which appears over 50x in his script). Think madlibs. It's a WIP.
To dissolve the question, ask the right questions.
'Funneling' refers to taking a concept into an actual experience.
Using a soft-style approach, the seeker's questions are not solved... instead they are dissolved.
Soft-style teaching steers the seeker to report on the experiencing of what is. Hard-style teaching steers the seeker to conceptualize the experiencing they’re aiming toward.
The Experiential Joy of PMI: Present Moment Investigations
That’s why PMI is intended to funnel you down into the experiencing of the present moment as what you are , which is the essence of conscious awakening .
Step 1 - Just Noticing What’s Going On
Step 2 - The Park Bench Test
Step 3 - Sam’s Performance Review
Step 4 - The Birth of Imaginary You But this differentiated consciousness we call Sam doesn’t just think it’s having a unique locational experiencing of living that’s part of a greater whole ( that would be an integrated consciousness ) ;
Step 5 - Searching For an Imaginary You Dissolving the idea of the self.
"Seems like" doesn’t make it so.
Sometimes "seems to be" is just that... an idea and nothing more. Don't belief everything you think.
Step 6 - Experiencing Continues
In the absence of an Imaginary You, and with the awareness that you are still experiencing the present moment anyway, is there any doubt that what you actually are is the very experiencing of the present moment itself? That’s all that’s left, right?
Realizing that what you are is the experiencing of the present moment, is a massive shift in awareness for any human being.
In the absence of an Imaginary You, you are the perceiving; not the perceiver.
Step 7 - Part of a Greater Whole (Oneness)
“What’s the purpose of this Oneness?” some may ask. Well, that’s a question that a non-existent, seemingly separate, Imaginary self would have asked. Nobody knows the purpose of Oneness, any more than a tree knows the purpose of a forest, or a wave knows the purpose of the ocean.
So your unique experiencing of the greater whole in your location, and everyone else’s in theirs, is what we’re labeling Oneness.
You are left as the experiencing of the present moment... And with the awareness that others are also the experiencing of their locations in the present moment... It makes all of our experiencings... Part of a greater whole. This might have been what the Buddha was pointing toward when he said "Everything is One, and only the One is."
You are the experiencing of Oneness that sometimes likes to play around at being an Imaginary You .
Step 1: Just Noticing What’s Going On Let’s begin with some simple noticing. In a moment, I’m going to ask you to notice a few things with your eyes closed, but first read the short description of what you’re going to be asked to notice. Once you understand what you’re being asked to notice, just close your eyes and begin noticing. With your eyes closed, take a full minute and notice whatever experiencing is occurring, without trying to control any of it. Notice whatever thoughts come and go. Notice whatever sounds you experience and whatever body sensations you notice. Just noticing the experiencing, whatever that experiencing may be, for a full minute is all we’re going to do.
Now, go ahead and take a minute to do the noticing described above. I’ll wait. All done? Good. Did you notice that there’s lots of experiencing going on? Lots of thoughts, sounds, and physical feelings going on all the time . . . And did you notice that you didn’t have to do anything at all for that experiencing to go on? The experiencing of living is just happening, without a You having to do anything at all. Right?
Great, so we can agree that the experiencing of living can go on without anyone having to do anything to make it happen, or anyone needing to control it. Yes? Now, take a full minute with your eyes open and look around. Notice all the experiencing, without judging or trying to control it. Just relax into the noticing of all the experiencing that’s going on. Go ahead and do it. I’ll wait. Did you do it? Good. Did you notice that with your eyes open there’s even more experiencing going on than with your eyes closed? Did you notice it’s just happening all on its own without a separate You needing to do anything? Great—so the experiencing of living is something that goes on without any separate You needing to do something to make it happen. That’s a pretty good noticing. I guess the next question is that if the experiencing of living is already going on anyway, what does a Sam add to the experiencing? Step 2: The Park Bench Test Imagine for a moment that you’re sitting on a park bench on a beautiful spring day. As you enjoy the warmth of the spring sun and the sounds of nature all around you, you notice your longtime friend walking down the pathway toward you. Now, let me ask you this; when the friend looks over at your physical body, they’ll see a Sam, right? Great, so your friend would look at your body and see a Sam. No news there. But now imagine the same scene, you sitting on the park bench, but this time it’s a complete stranger walking your way. When that stranger looks over at you, will they see a Sam? No, the stranger won’t be able to see a Sam, will they? So, what will the stranger see when they glance at you? They will only be able to see a nameless body. Right? And why can’t they see a Sam? They can’t see a Sam because no one has told them your story; the thoughts in their head that would allow them to imagine a separate and independent character called Sam. Right again? Your friend has all sorts of thoughts and stories based on behavioral patterns and events that he ties to the body he thinks of as Sam. Still right? Both the friend and the stranger can see your body; no doubt about that, correct? But only your friend can see a Sam. True? Now imagine that I took you to a busy sidewalk in a city where you didn’t know anyone.
Would everyone who walks past be able to see your body? Yes, everyone would be able to see your body. Right? Would any stranger who walks by you on that sidewalk be able to see a Sam? No, no stranger would be able to see a Sam. Right again? So would it be fair to say that these human bodies are objective things in our relative world that everyone can see? Yes? Yes, bodies are objective things that everyone can see. On that we can all agree. Would it also be fair to say that the thoughts that would allow someone to imagine an independent character tied to a body called Sam would be more of a subjective thing? Yes, they’re subjective. They are thoughts in someone’s head. Still yes? So then, would it be fair to say that your physical body seems like an objective thing, but the idea of a Sam is more of a subjective thing? Would it also be fair to say that Sam is more of a story? Actually, more like just thoughts about a Sam in someone’s head? Yes? Yes, that’s why different people have different thoughts in their heads that they tie to different bodies. Sam seems more like a subjective thing, like a collection of ideas about Sam in people’s head. Right? Would it be more accurate to say that our physical body is one thing, and a Sam is another thing? And that they are not the same thing? Yes, it would. Wouldn’t it? So the physical body and a Sam are not the same thing. Agreed? Great. So let’s take a closer look at these bodies and this idea of a Sam. Let’s investigate and make sure that the Sam that’s, “Just an idea, just a story,” in your friend’s head, isn’t it also, “Just an idea, just a story,” in your head too? Because WOW! That would change everything. If it’s true . . . Step 3: Sam’s Performance Review We know everyone can see your body, right? Perfect strangers and longtime friends can see your body. True? Terrific. So the fact that the body exists in our world is not in question here at all. Correct? I also don’t doubt for a second that it really seems like there’s a Sam running the show. The seeming to be a Sam is never in question. We never, ever, ever question that a Sam seems to be in charge. What’s in question is the actuality of a Sam that’s in control of the experiencing of living that goes on in the location of your body.
Step 4: The Birth of Imaginary You Let’s take a moment and imagine the day your body was born. You’ve just popped out of your mother’s womb; a little body that will grow into the adult body everyone will call Sam. There’s your little body, all fresh and screaming, laying on a table as they clean it up before they hand it over to your mother. And now it’s time for the doctor to fill out the birth certificate. So answer me this; does the doctor just look over at the baby and say, “Oh, that’s obviously a Sam, so Sam is what I’ll write on the birth certificate,”? No; the doctor can’t tell you’re a Sam just by looking at that baby. He has no thoughts in his head about that little person, no story about a Sam. The doctor just sees a new body. So, to fill out the name section on the birth certificate, the doctor has to ask someone what thoughts in their heads the parents have decided to assign to this baby body. Agreed? And just to be clear, does the baby think it’s a Sam yet? Nope. Even the baby doesn’t think it’s a Sam on the day it’s born, right? If it were otherwise, the doctor could just walk over to the baby body that will grow into the adult body holding this book and ask, “Who are you?” and that baby would reply, “Hi Doc, I’m Sam. I’m a Capricorn. I like slow walks on the beach at sunset, candlelit dinners, and snuggling in front of the fireplace on cold winter nights.” But we all know babies don’t do that for many reasons; the first being that they don’t think they’re a Sam yet. Right? The body that starts as a baby takes a rather long time to start believing it’s a Sam. Actually, it takes about two years for that baby to start thinking it’s a Sam. The creation of a Sam comes about through a pretty standard conspiracy. The baby comes into the world as undifferentiated consciousness. It just has experiencings without thinking or feeling like a separate self. There’s the experiencing of hunger, and the experiencing of feeling full. There’s pleasure, and sometimes pain. There’s a warm, squishy feeling in the diaper from time to time, and then more feelings when the body is washed and bathed. But all those feelings are just experiencings. There is no Sam that considers the experiencings to be those of a separate Sam. So, let’s be crystal clear where we are right now; there’s this baby body that’s already having experiencings of its own. The body comes first. And then there’s this idea of a Sam that develops later. Yes? So the body is one thing, and a Sam that develops over time is another thing. Right? But—the body and Sam are not the same thing. That’s big! So, the body and the Sam are not the same thing. Sound about right so far? Yes? Terrific.
For the non-dual seekers, the maxim is clear; “Investigate your present moment configuration, but do it soft-style, by asking the right questions.”
Now You Know The Way We began our spiritual journey by noting the difficulty in finding, “True places,” which, “are not down in any map.” Awakening is undoubtedly one of those places.
Present Moment Investigation will experientially show seekers of awakening that we’re always already it. Because it is the actual experiencing of the present moment, there’s no way not to be it. This glorious simplicity is stunning. Awakening is a difference, not just in degree, but in kind, from those experiencing the world as a seems to be separate Imaginary You. Thus, the difficulty for the seeker is that most often they’re using a nonexistent, imaginary self to try to discover that there’s no imaginary self. Good imaginary luck! A small number of spiritual concepts appear to be all that are required for the spiritual seeker to have a conscious awakening. Endless spiritual answers to seeker's questions tend to become an ever-growing Hydra of concepts that only reinforce the Imaginary You. Hard-style, open-ended spiritual questions tend to sprout Hydra’s of their own, each question growing ever more questions for the Imaginary You to nurture and grow into more and more concepts. Too many concepts and too much information just reinforce the Imaginary You that the seeker needs to see through to awaken. It’s only the soft-style spiritual questions that funnel the seeker from conceptual spiritual seeking into the actual experiencing of that toward which all their spiritual concepts point.
This is because awakening is ultimately a deductive process, and why it’s only the right questions that will allow one to awaken. We don't seek to solve problems, we seek to dissolve problems.
The first item to deduct is the Imaginary self. The second item is all your preconceived concepts about what is. As you recognize the experiencing of the present moment as what you actually are, you began to see the truth.
Present Moment Investigation merely asks questions, in a soft-style way. Nothing is asserted, yet everything is investigated.
It's the PMI that lead us out from the always and constant known (a construct of the mind). True experiencing is the unfolding of experience as it unfolds. And PMI is always new.
To be experiencing of each moment as what you are.
By just asking questions, PMI leads the seeker to the experiencing of the present moment as what they are; what they’ve always been.
So to apply PMI, simply ask:
They experience the One Taste; the taste of Oneness. They awaken. When PMI becomes a habit, the One Taste will grow until you abide in the present moment experiencing as what you always already are. Once there’s been the experiential recognition of the One Taste, and a soft-style way to revisit and grow the One Taste consistently, the playful habit will just become what gets done. Despite the fact that there’s no doer, no Imaginary You-er, PMI gets done.
The One Taste grows until you abide as what you always already are; the unique experiencing of Oneness in the present moment; continually.
Play with your PMI whenever the tension(/tension) arises. Relax and play. All is well. The One Taste is yours to revisit at any time.
Finding our way to oneness though play.
The author ultimately wants to help us reach a place of oneness - where the self dissolves and we see the truth: Who we are is what we are and what we are is experiencing of the present moment. The self-identity we've been struggling to secure our entire lives turns out to be an illusion. When you begin PMI (Present Moment Investigation), you discover that the 'self' is powerless because it's not real, it's only a concept, and idea.
We've spent our entire lives fighting to secure a concept.
After 9/11, I heard a truth that has stuck with me till this day: You will never eliminate terrorism, because terrorism is an idea. Same goes for the self: You will never eliminate the self, because the self is an idea. But you can dissolve the self. The idea of the self begins to dissolve when you discover that it only exists as a concept.
I wonder if we can dissolve terrorism in the same way?
I've always thought of myself as a problem solver. And this book helped me see the futility in my ways. Beginning today, I will try to remind myself that I can use PMI to reveal the truth: The problem only exists because of it conflicts with the idea I have of how it's supposed to appear. Once you can accept it for what it is, the problem just dissolves. Rather than try to solve it, I can play with it. A good place to start is with this idea of trying to secure a self (my identity) that only exists as a concept.
I'll admit that I used to view most of life as series of projects - one after another, I'd work to complete the project and they have all added up to form my identity.