Usually I am very groggy when I first wake up in the morning and it takes a while for my mind to show any signs of consciousness. But sometimes I wake up in the morning with a sense of wonder. I sit up on my bed, look out of the window, and life seems like a big mystery. I ask myself “Where am I?” “What the heck am I doing here?” The last day seems like a dream. The present is full of wonder. I am full of questions: “Where is this room coming from?” “What about the beautiful trees in the garden?” At those moments it feels like a deep mystery how this world could have possibly come into being.
Question like “What is the meaning of life?” and “Who am I?” have been running like a thread through my life since I have been a teenager. At times the lack of a satisfying answer to the meaning of life was very painful. I have found over time that there is no satisfying intellectual answer, but that when I can connect and experience my true being a little then these questions simply dissolve … at least for a little while!
Studying and practicing Buddhism has helped me to get little glimpses of what my true being is. I haven’t been able to fully embody the experiences of these special moments, but they have become like a beacon in my life. Working towards realizing this truth more deeply through studying and practicing Buddhism has giving my life direction and purpose.
I realize that eventually my questions about what or who I am will disappear, but until they do, I find it helpful to reflect on them. Intellectual understanding is not the ultimate answer but it is a support that gives you a road map on where the path leads and how to get there.
Interestingly, when it comes to reflecting on our true nature, the Buddhist teachings focus more on “what we are” and not on “who we are”. The reason for this is that when we really look there is no “who” to be found. Therefore it is much better to think of ourselves in terms of what we are. Here are two quotes about “what we truly are” by two of my teachers that I find very inspiring:
In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying Sogyal Rinpoche writes beautifully about the “Heart of Meditation”. He writes:
“The purpose of meditation is to awaken in us the sky-like nature of mind, and to introduce us to that which we really are, our unchanging pure awareness, which underlies the whole of life and death.” (p. 60)
“Pure awareness is like a ball of clear crystal—colorless in itself but capable of reflecting anything: your face, other people, walls, furniture. if you moved it around a little, maybe you’d see different parts of the and the size, shape, or position of the furniture might change. if you took it outside, you could see trees, birds, flowers—even the sky! What appears, though, are only reflections. They don’t really exist inside the ball, nor do they alter its essence in any way. …. They don’t alter the nature of that which reflects them. The crystal ball is essentially colorless. Similarly pure awareness in itself is always clear, capable of reflecting anything, even misconceptions about itself as limited or conditioned.” (p. 85-86)
Isn’t it amazing and wonderful that our true nature is like this and that we can learn to experience and embody it through the practice of meditation?