“The real you is timeless and beyond life and death” — Nisargadatta Maharaj
The basic premise of my book “Awaken the Happy You” is that there are two distinct parts to who we are.
There is the ever-changing self-image, which is perpetually on the search for meaning, purpose and a happier experience of life.
And there is the impersonal, unconditioned Self which is eternal, unchanging and ever complete.
This is the Self which Nisargadatta describes above as “timeless and beyond life and death.”
It is the ground, the essence of who we are beyond mind, body and person-ality.
The self-image, this body and mind I call “me”, is characterised by a sense of lack and separation —a restless feeling that there’s something missing, something that needs to be fixed or improved before I can feel complete, at peace and happy within myself.*
(*in truth, we’ll never feel perfectly at peace on the level of the self-image).
To ‘awaken the happy you’ means to recognise and consciously connect with the unconditioned Self, the part of you that is inherently complete. This self cannot be improved upon.
Peace, happiness and contentment are its nature.
These qualities don’t have to be sought or created. It’s a matter of learning to recognise the peace and happiness which already exist at the core of our being.
There’s a profound quote by the Indian teacher Papaji.
“Don’t try to be a peaceful person. Be peace.”
What does he mean by this?
The Real You Is Ever Content, Always At Peace
There are two types of peace (or happiness).
Any peace we experience as a feeling will inevitably leave us again. Like clouds passing across the sky, all feelings and emotions come and go.
Peaceful clouds are inevitably followed by restless clouds, happy clouds by unhappy clouds. All feelings are transient in nature.
Also, feelings of peace or happiness, or their opposites, are often dictated by external factors.
The new relationship that brings so much happiness turns into the painful divorce several years later.
The second type of peace, the peace of your true nature, is unchanging, has no opposite and remains untouched by external circumstances.
It is the unchanging ground of who you are, which they call ‘Sat Chit Ananda’ in the Indian tradition— Truth, Consciousness, Bliss.
This is the peace that Papaji is referring to when he says, “Don’t try to be a peaceful person. Be peace”.
The Real You Is The Screen, The Self-Image is the Movie
A great way to describe the relationship between the self-image and the real you is the analogy of the screen and the movie.
When you are sitting in the cinema waiting for the movie to begin, all you can see is a blank screen.
As soon as the movie starts, you become captivated by the characters, plots, and storylines in the movie and no longer notice the screen.
You’re still looking right at the screen but, lost in the drama and excitement of the movie, you no longer see it.
If there’s a fire in the movie, the screen doesn’t burn. If it’s pouring rain in the movie, the screen doesn’t get wet.
The screen is the backdrop on which the movie plays out. And the screen has no preference. Whether it’s a comedy, a tragedy or a horror movie, the screen remains untouched.
And it’s exactly the same with the movie of your life or the movie of the world.
It plays out against an unchanging backdrop (you could call it awareness or consciousness) which remains untouched and unaffected by the content of the mind or the circumstances of your life.
If you are happy, you are aware you’re happy. Similarly, if you’re unhappy, the same awareness is aware that you’re unhappy. Feelings change but awareness is always the same.
And just like the movie screen, awareness has no preferences.
Its nature is peace, joy, contentment.
And, according to the sages and spiritual teachers from all traditions, it’s who you are.
So this begs the question, “How to recognise and connect with the eternal peace of the real you?
The Nature of the Real You—Coming Into Contact With Reality
There are a few things I find fascinating about connecting with the eternal, unchanging part of ourselves.
For one, it requires no effort—just a little guidance…. much like guiding someone into a parking space.
How could being who you already are require any effort?
I also find it fascinating that even the most screwed up, chaotic person is no further from peace than anyone else. They already ARE the screen. They already ARE peace. They just don’t know it yet.
But perhaps the most extraordinary thing is that when people recognise their true Self for the fist time, they often say things like “Is that it? It’s so simple. I’ve always known that.”
They were looking for bells and whistles… and almost feel disappointed.
So How to Connect With Your True Self?
Let me ask you a question:
Returning to the movie analogy, what is it that prevents you from noticing the screen once the movie has begun?
You become so captivated by and caught up in the drama and excitement of the flickering images that your attention is no longer on the screen, even though it’s not hidden. You are actually looking at it the whole time.
The reason we don’t notice the underlying peace, contentment and joy of our true nature is because we are so compulsively pre-occupied with the content of our minds and the movie of our life.
And here’s the good news.
You don’t need to fix, improve or change yourself… or your life, to find peace and happiness.
You just need to change where you put your focus and attention.
If the mind is quiet for even a moment, the full experience of peace is ever available.* Whether it’s recognised or not is another matter.
*this is why some meditations focus on noticing the gap between thoughts.
There are two requirements to connect with the real you.
First you need a tool to quiet the incessant stream of thoughts in your head. And then you need to recognise THAT which remains in the absence of thoughts and thinking.
Here’s a meditation you may find helpful:
Leave Your Mind At the Door Guided Meditation (22 minutes)