Me Or Not Me?

Where does the body begin and where does it end? Where do "I" begin and where do "I" end?.

First presented at the conclusion to the workshop/retreat
Deep Calls To Deep, The Soul of the Whale, 20 October 2007.


I have spent most of my life asking the big questions. Who am I? What are we? Why are we so violent, so destructive of life? Can we live in harmony with each other and all creatures and the whole Earth?

For all that asking, I feel I have little knowledge. But there is one thing that I can offer.

Reality is what it is, not what we think it is.

We live in devotion, not to the dynamic nature of the living world, not to reality, but to an image concocted in the mind to make sense out of what it cannot truly comprehend.

The mind lives by distinction and differentiation, by relating what is new to what is already known. That is its nature.

So if we live in exclusive devotion to the mind's image of reality, we live in fragments.

We live in the belief in distinction and separation.

We live in the past.

We forget that the mind's experience of what is, and the image it creates from that experience, is just an image.

We act as if the image is real. But it is not real.

Reality is the whole of everything.

This is not trivial.

The habits of the mind go very deep. They are ingrained in the nervous system.

Some are obviously negative and destructive, though we still live in devotion to them: greed, hate, jealousy, prejudice.

Others are accepted by nearly everyone as normal.

For instance, the thought habit that identifies the body as "me," that puts a label on anything that happens on or within the body as "me" and anything outside the membrane of skin as "not me."

What about the oxygen the body breathes in and the carbon dioxide it breathes out? Me or not me?

What about the atmosphere that receives that carbon and offers that oxygen? Me or not me?

What about the water the body drinks? Or the ocean, the source of that water? Me or not me?

What about the plant or the animal that produces the proteins and the minerals that make blood and bone? Me or not me?

Or the sun that fuels it all, or the elementary particles, spread throughout the universe that make up that sun and make up this human body? Me, or not me?

What about the vast expanses of empty space between stars, or the silence between thoughts? Me or not me?

Where does the body begin and where does it end?

Where do I begin? Where do I end?

Who am I, in reality, as opposed to who or what I think I am or think I should be?

If I come to this point, realizing that what I have always accepted as "me" is a habitual thought pattern, a limited framing of reality, what happens?

Find out! Find out what it means to live in devotion to the unfathomable.

I can not tell you what will happen, but This feels to me like the root of the whole problem.

It is why we see ourselves as separate. From the natural world. From each other.

It is why we are unwilling to question, or even able to recognize, our most basic cultural and personal prejudices.

It is why we fall into devotion to greed and comfort and security, to getting more and more for ourselves.

It is why we are so uncomfortable with the idea of having or being or becoming less.

It is why we fear death.

It is why we won't slow down and be still.

It is why our opinions and beliefs are so inflexible, so resistant to being contradicted, even by our own experience.

It is why we make enemies.

It is why we close our eyes to injustice.

Because we believe in the mental image of ourselves.

We believe that our thoughts and opinions and habitual ways of behaving define us. That they tell us who we really are. That they define an entity who needs to be protected and perfected.

We give all of our attention to the fragmentary images of the mind, and we ignore the living world.

And everywhere we go, we impose our image of the world onto the world. We cling to the familiar and we destroy the wild.

But it was not always this way.

Where did our earliest understanding of the world come from?

Playing. Directly engaging the world without prior knowledge, senses wide open. Being immersed in the unknown and learning about it physically, through spontaneous interaction.

At the very least, devotion to the truth means being at play, it means listening.

And devotion to the truth means loving what I do not know, what I do not understand, even what I fear.

It means giving others the freedom to be what they are, and to reveal themselves in their own way in their own time, or to remain hidden.

There is no knowing and no telling what this freedom might bring into being, for in this freedom the whole universe participates, and we do not know what the whole universe is getting up to.

Everything is holy. Everything is sacred. Everything together.

What am I?

Nothing. There is no thing that is "me."

Everything. There is nothing that is "not me."

Our task is quite simple: to be open to the truth.

To welcome life, all of life, especially the parts we don't like, in its awesome, wild unity in multiplicity. And to let it go its mysterious way.

To let it grab us and shake us and remind us of who and what we truly are.

Nothing and everything.

The whole movement of life.