I want to be happy. I want to be rich. I want to be acknowledged. I want to be fulfilled. I want a better job, a new car, a bigger home.
We all have these thoughts, but we probably don’t spend too much time pondering what this ‘I’ actually is.
It can’t be our body, because that doesn’t have many of those desires, other than to be healthy, eat, sleep, be warm and suchlike.
Perhaps it’s our brain. But does a brain have ambitions or desires to be rich? We could argue that a brain wants to be happy and content, perhaps, but that then opens up the can of worms about identity. Am I nothing more or less than a brain? And as there are drives that we have that would be alien to the brain, it seems we can’t be that either.
Then, perhaps, I’m a soul. But even this doesn’t fully pass the test. A soul doesn’t desire money in the bank, or a promotion, or a nicer house, or a better car.
While it’s very difficult to know who actually I am, we’re all convinced that it points to something that is essential, the real me. This I is constant, it makes decisions, it has needs. The assumption also implies that this I is in control and a problem-solver.
So, if that’s the case, try the three-question challenge (and if your assumption is correct, you should be answering ‘yes’ to each question):
- Do you decide what you dream?
- Do you control your moods (that is, do you decide to be depressed or anxious)?
- Do you decide to have negative, self-limiting or harmful thoughts?
Of course, few —if any of us—will give a ‘yes’ to any of the questions. We don’t decide what we dream, we’re not in control of our moods, and we never want to have negative, self-limiting thoughts. But that’s what happens.
Instead, these thoughts, dreams and moods happen to us, and over which we have no control.
So what’s going on? I could coin a movie title and say ‘It’s complicated’, but that immediately defines it and you’ll see it that way. So, let’s just say it’s amazing, fascinating and once you get it, you won’t want to stop looking.
So here it is. You are an expression of three time sequences: the present, past and what I call the potential (which is out of time, and in Eastern religion is the silent watcher, the seer behind sight, the hearer behind hearing). You can have more than one sequence expressing itself at the same time, but usually one will be dominant. The expression creates a ‘you’ in that moment, so, for example, an expression from the past may generate a feeling of anger, and that anger will create a ‘you’ that will define itself as ‘I am angry’.
This is why you can have many desires, ambitions and needs; they come from one or more time sequences. These feelings from the time sequences create emotions and thoughts, and these thoughts create a you, hence the central koan in my book, The Untrue Story of You: the thought thinks the thinker.
Waking up psychologically or spiritually begins when you start to see these processes at play.
Have fun with it and let me know if you’re starting to see these movements of thought for yourself.