13 – What Remains
The idea of a ‘you’ is played out in the Relative Level
‘Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers.’ – Qingyuan Weixin
Peter: I’m interested to find out what remains after the Shift. Some teachers say that after Awakening there’s ‘no one there’; the ‘story’ of that person has finished. From what you’ve said it seems that you wouldn’t agree.
Jez: The phrase ‘there’s no one there’ is potentially misleading because it contains some truth, but the reality is a little more subtle than it suggests. The Personality is kept alive by your belief in it. When that breaks down, identification with Personality falls away. It’s like when you cut the vine: The fruit dies. In the Shift, what is seen through is the Personality; it’s finally recognised as a phantom built on beliefs, thought, Emotion, desires, hope etc.
Peter: So there’s no identification with Personality, but I don’t understand what they mean when they say: ‘There’s no story’. What about the history of the person? That all still happened.
Jez: This is where we have to be really careful with terminology. There’s a history that you remember: You passed this exam; you went to this university etc. So there’s a trail of facts from your past which now appear as memories; these don’t suddenly disappear from the mind.
Peter: So what is meant by the ‘story’?
Jez: The experience of our lives is more than a series of events happening in the physical world. Our lives are made of who we think we are, and how that one experiences those events, and responds to them. The fact is, since the Wound, that sense of who we think we are was taken to be the Personality, this finite idea of an ‘I’. And that Personality had Emotions, hopes, desires, survival strategies, Suffering etc which it weaved around and through those physical events. All of that is what’s meant by the ‘story’: the hurt of a betrayal, the pleasing to be accepted, the feeling of achievement in passing an exam, the disappointments when our plans fall apart; the Emotional history of the Personality is what is meant by the story. Let’s give it a capital ‘S’ to distinguish it from other uses of the word.
For the purpose of providing practical examples of what I discuss in these talks, I’ve occasionally referred to my Story. Most people are absolutely attached to their Story, because it’s all they’ve got; it’s intimately tied up with their identity, with who they think they are. But what happens to a story when there’s no belief in it to uphold it anymore? When the Personality is no longer identified with, it’s no longer ’your life’; it becomes just a series of events that happened to that person you previously thought you were. If the dreamer is seen through, what happens to the Dream? It’s seen through too, but that doesn’t mean you can’t remember it. After the Shift, that Story is no longer your identity; the identification with it has been broken. It seems as if it has happened to someone else, because the one who it happened to, the Personality, is no longer believed in.
Peter: You say the Personality’s no longer believed in, but you’re still a person, you still function. How is that possible if the Personality is the vehicle through which we operate and function in the world?
Jez: The teacher J. Krishanmurti used the phrase ‘life without a centre’ when talking about this realisation. The centre he’s referring to is the Personality. But there is a centre that operates; without it you couldn’t function at all. That centre is the Self.
Peter: We talked about this when we discussed childhood in the previous book;* can you remind me what you mean by the ‘Self’?
Jez: The Self is the original vehicle through which Oneness, in the form of a baby, interacts with the World of Separation. After the Wound, the Self gradually picks up patterns of belief, Emotion and thought and becomes the Personality we take ourselves to be. In the Shift, I simply stopped taking myself to be that Personality. That identification with it, which began in childhood, fell away. When that happened, the operating centre returned to its origin: the Self, from which the Personality had been built.
So there’s a return to how things began. The identification has shifted back from Personality, beyond the Self, to Being. It’s a reversal of what happened after the Wound when the identification moved from Being, to the Self, to Personality. What you’re left with is Being, functioning in the world, through the Self.
When you Wake Up, the operating system of the Self is no longer loaded with all the Emotions, beliefs and other components of the Personality, so it can do its job really efficiently.
Teachers of non-Duality often use the phrase: ’There’s no one there’ when they talk about life after Awakening. This can be misleading because it suggests that you somehow become invisible after the Shift. The truth is, there’s no Personality running the show, but there is a self functioning and this of course manifests as the appearance of a person and a life that is lived. So from the outside, I look the same as before the Shift. In the Relative Level there’s a sense of a Self, but there’s no identification with it; it’s just a function that’s arising. That’s the nature of a human being: to appear to be separate. On the Relative Level there’s the appearance to others that I am this Self and from this point of view, there is a ‘sense of Self’ too.
Peter: There is?
Jez: Of course. There’s a human being ‘happening’ here, just as there is over there in the form of ‘you’. There’s a sense of a person, of a ‘me’ talking to you and answering these questions, but there’s awareness that this sense of ‘me’ is just a function which, on the Absolute Level, no longer applies. So there’s the playing out of the appearance of a Self, a sense of me-ness in the Relative Level, and there’s the awareness that it’s just an appearance; something that’s arising. There’s no one there to own it, to identify with it.
Peter: As we said before, you could say that you are the Choice-less Awareness watching it all?
Jez: You could say that. Some people call it Consciousness, or Love; these are just concepts and labels. But who is this ‘you’ that identifies with Awareness or Love or Consciousness? There’s just Awareness, Love or Consciousness. The idea of a ‘you’ is played out in the Relative Level, but that’s just a game, an appearance. That’s what in India they call Leela, the play of life. The best way I can describe it is in this poem I wrote after the Shift happened:
Dressed in turquoise, froth and spray
I swell in fascination with myself.
I have somewhere to go –
I know that I will be happy when I arrive,
So I keep moving, I keep turning
I am a wave.
I am shouldered by others just like me,
All rolling in the same direction,
Each believing that someone up ahead knows the way.
And being so many of us
How can this be wrong?
Without reason, without fuss
Comes this mysterious, yet ordinary event:
The ceasing of my occupation.
This momentum which gives me purpose,
This movement which defines me,
I subside, I dissolve.
i am no longer a wave –
i am the ocean
the ocean is me.
This form rises up again.
The ocean looks the same, but everything has changed.
i do not strive to be different from how i am,
i cannot make myself any greater or lesser –
i can only be the form which the ocean gives me.
i cannot choose where i’m going –
i can only flow where the currents pull me.
i have no destination,
Everywhere is here.
i am the back and forth,
The up and down,
The stillness and the rage.
i am the wave and the ocean.
* The Story of ‘You’ – Chapter 10