02 Jun Be The Includer, Not The Included
I offer an extended course in living awakened, called Living Liberation. Whether you are wanting to learn how to play piano well, shoot great basketball, be a top-notch brain surgeon, or live fully awakened, it’s always best to study with someone who has true mastery in that field. Enlightenment is not an achievement, it just happens, by loving, and spending time with, the Truth, and I welcome students to spend extended time with me to have their sense of That expand naturally.
Students often ask me, “How do you live as an awakened, liberated soul? What’s the secret? If you had to distill it down to one sentence or phrase, the essence, the one key that opens that door, what would it be?”
It would be this: be the Includer, not the included.
Everyone can make a long list of what’s included in their lives, all the thoughts, hopes, dreams, events and circumstances, good & bad, that make them who they are (or who they think they are.) Aside from your name, your parents, your birthplace, religion and lifestyle you were born into, and how those things affected your upbringing & development, the list of course includes your mind – what you’re thinking each minute – your body, your emotions and whatever’s happening happening in your daily life, happy or sad, pleasure full or painful, successful or unsuccessful. This and much more comprises your list of what’s included in your life that makes you, “you.” We all have such a list, a description of ourselves and our “story.” And it’s natural to think that’s who “we are.” When asked “Who are you?,” it’s natural to respond with to respond with all the items on that list – “I’m so-and-so, this is my profession, these are my problems I’m contending with in life, here’s how I felt yesterday and how I feel today, etc.” And because we think we are our circumstances and our feelings, we tend to think the key to happiness, to liberation, is to improve and arrange all those circumstances and body-mind challenges until they are just perfect, or as close to perfect as can be.
Of course, it’s not true. All of those things included in that list – our mind, thoughts, good days, bad days, pains and sufferings, goals achieved and dreams shattered – are not who we really are. The way we know that is because all those things are constantly changing, but the “I” never changes! We are always “us,” always there, the unchanging “I,” in all circumstances. The “I” that is having all those experiences,” the one that says, “I feel good, or “I feel bad,” or “My mind is always chattering, never still,” or “I have a body that always seems to have one pain or illness after another,” that “I” that’s doing the talking, the noticing and the ownership of all these included parts, is always “I.” “I am this, I am that, I feel this or that, I want this or that.” What is that “I” that never changes?” That is the question that the “seeker” lives in, and that the awakened soul lives in the answer to, which is, there is no “I.”
So how to most quickly “solve” the dilemma of living in the throes & suffering, ups & downs of all those things included in our list that we think we are? Simple. Fall back into your natural awareness that you are that Awareness of all those things, not the things themselves. Be the includer, not the included. Let go of your tenacious hold on all these definitions of who or what your are, and sink back into the very tangible feeling that you are simply the Awareness that is watching all these temporary, illusory events & descriptions pass by, while You remain constant, neutral and at peace.
You can feel this right now, if you are willing to suspend, at least temporarily, your insistence that you are made up of what you include. Go ahead, spend a few minutes now realizing that all those included things in your life are always changing, and therefore could not be the real you. Now notice that the “You” is the only thing that hasn’t changed and has always been there, and drop back into being the Includer, the Space in which all those events and circumstances are taking place, with no judgment or interest in changing anything, just being aware of all of it, just being Awareness. Notice how peaceful, even blissful, your Includer is. Because It is not the ever-shifting things included in your life or life-situations. It is just the Awareness. No “personal” involvement, no “personal” story, no judgment, no desire to change any of it…just Awareness.
My own life list has included both the wonderful and the awful. I was born into a well-to-do family, with all the opportunities for great education, travel and experiences. I’ve enjoyed a great long-lasting marriage and fatherhood. And I began my awakening path at a young age, and was blessed to spend extended time with some of the most notable “enlightened” teachers & mentors.
Simultaneously, I experienced the tragedy of losing several immediate family members to cancer, which seems strong in my family. And this body-mind seems to be fraught with more than its share of illness & suffering. One particular chronic debilitating disorder has hung like a cloud over this body for more than a third of its life, and seemed to be the singular impediment to “advancing in spiritual life.” I’ve since come to realize it has actually been the greatest catalyst for my spiritual awakening. Nevertheless, month after month, year after year of being constantly beset by the awful body-mind feelings inherent in this disorder, made me feel my only option would be to spend my days dwelling, hour after hour, on how I felt. Naturally, I didn’t want to live that way, but no doctor or healer I saw was ever able to “cure” me, and I wondered how I could ever break out of the self-absorbed cycle of suffering most minutes of most days.
As my awakening to the truth blossomed, something shifted. I “felt,” clearly, the difference between all my body, mind and life included, and the true “I,” the Includer, the Space that included it all but was not “bothered” by any of it. Indeed, to that Space, it was all perfect, the rich pageant of experience necessary for the One to experience Itself as the “many.” When I was able to include all of it, all the “good” and “bad,” all the “pleasureful” and the “painful,” I was no longer captivated by the all the circumstances my life included, constantly trying to cure or relieve them. Even on those “worst” days where my body’s illness was most painful and oppressive, I found myself falling back into the ever-opening Awareness, behind and beyond all my included circumstances, and found myself being simply the Includer, resting in that untrammeled peace of calmly being the space for it all, not the things themself.
Curiously, I thought that relaxed, neutral peace was good enough and the end. I was amazed to discover that space of empty Awareness was not empty at all, but filled with endless bliss. Like an ocean with no shores, every time I thought I had reached the boundaries of that bliss, I experienced it just getting wider and more infinite.
Once you realize You are the pure, unfazed Includer of All, not the circumstances or feelings included in your life, you’re free! No longer can you be dislodged from your sense that you are the Space holding everything, even by the most intense & continuous suffering of the body-mind, because that’s just more of what’s included, and You are the Includer, the empty, non-judging Space in which all that is taking place.
Certainly, within my continued allotted-time experience in a body-mind, I love & cherish those days where my body is free of suffering. And like any embodied being, I continue to work with various doctors & healers to see if the suffering can be permanently cured. But it no longer runs my days, nor do any of my life circumstances. I watch them come and go, knowing that even if this illness and many other life challenges were “healed,” there will always be other ever-changing circumstances in my life (including my eventual decay & death) that my mind can latch onto, to try to trap me in the fruitless cycle of trying to alter all that’s “included” in my life for happiness & liberation. Being involved in that endless cycle is now over for me, as it can be for anyone. Just live in your Includer, not your included.